As a life-long Dodger fan and a fan of the game itself, I have seen hundreds (actually thousands) of players come and go over the years. Some of them have left an indelible mark on the game but most of them did not. Still others left an indelible mark in my heart. I have to say that one such player in that latter group is 34-year-old Alfredo Amézaga, whom the Dodgers just signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training camp.
If the name Alfredo Amézaga sounds familiar to you, it is with good reason. Amézaga has “been there, done that” before with the Dodgers. He was signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training back in 2010 as well.
Amézaga was born in Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, Mexico and attended Miami High School, and later St. Petersburg College. While in college, he played for the Keene Swamp Bats of the New England Collegiate Baseball League. He was drafted by the Angels in the 13th round of the 1999 First Year Player Draft – 401st overall. And while this certainly isn’t earth shattering news, the 402nd guy drafted was some guy named Albert Pujols.
Amézaga began his professional career with the Angels’ Low Class-A affiliate in Boise where he was named to the Northwest League All-Star team after hitting .322. He was promoted to Advanced Single-A in 2000 where he hit .279 and was second in the California League with 73 stolen bases. In 2001 Amézaga was promoted to Double-A Arkansas and hit .312 in 70 games and was named to both the mid-season and post-season Texas League All-Star teams. He also represented the “World Team” in the 2001 All-Star Futures Game and was named the Angels 2001 Minor League Defensive Player of the Year. Although Amézaga began the 2002 season at Triple-A Salt Lake, he wasn’t there very long.
On May 24, 2002, Amézaga made his major league debut with the Angels against the Minnesota Twins at shortstop, and though he went hitless in three at-bats that day, he collected his first major league hit two days later, a double to left center off of Twins pitcher Eric Milton. His first home run did not come until August 19, 2003 against Jon Garland of the Chicago White Sox. In three seasons with the Angels, Amézaga played in 122 games and hit .209. He also appeared in two games for the Angels in the 2004 ALDS against the Boston Red Sox but went 0 for 2.
Amézaga was designated for assignment by the Angels after the 2004 season and was immediately picked up off waivers by the Colorado Rockies; and though he made the Opening Day roster, he appeared in only two games going 1 for 3 before the Rockies designated him for assignment on April 20. He was again immediately picked up off of waivers, this time by the Pittsburgh Pirates and was 0 for 3 in his three plate appearances and was then sent down to Triple-A Indianapolis, where he hit .341 in 64 games and became a free agent at the end of the season.
Amézaga signed as a free agent with the Florida Marlins prior to the 2006 season and appeared in a career high 132 games, hitting .260. In his four years with the Marlins, he appeared in 417 games and hit .259 during that span. He was used primarily as a utility infielder/outfielder.
It was during the 2008 season that I first saw Amézaga in action when the Marlins rolled into Dodger Stadium for a four-game series. What struck me most about Amézaga was that he played with tenacity and heart. He would run onto and off of the field between innings (he played both shortstop and center field during the series) and he showed hustle in everything that he did. And while there is no stat for this, it’s just one of those things that you always remember about a guy. Amézaga played in only two of the four games, however he went 3 for 7 with an RBI and a run scored.
The Marlins returned to Dodger Stadium in late July of 2009. Unfortunately, a week earlier Amézaga had suffered a season-ending micro-fracture to his left knee that requiring surgery and the Marlins released him after the season.
During the 2009 off-season, the Dodgers signed Amézaga to a minor league contract with an invitation to Big league camp in 2010. Although Amézaga worked out with the Big team, his recovery was taking longer than expected and he never played in a game. He began the 2010 season at Double-A Chattanooga where, after his fourth at bat, he re-injured his knee and spent the remainder of the season on the DL.
Amézaga left the Dodgers organization at the end of the 2010 season as a free agent and signed minor league contracts with the Rockies and Marlins in 2011 and the Cubs in 2012, but he never played above the Triple-A level with any of these teams and again became a free agent at the conclusion of the 2012 season.
During this past off-season, Amézaga played winter ball for the Yaquis de Obregon of the Mexican Pacific League where he won the league’s batting title, hitting .344 with an OBP of .384, a SLG of .480, and an OPS of .864.
Early Saturday morning the Tweets began flying that the Dodgers had once again signed Amézaga to a minor league contract with an invitation to Big league camp and I, for one, was glad to hear this. And even though Alfredo Amézaga has struggled mightily throughout his 9-year MLB career, he has never been short on courage and heart and still maintains his gutsy never-say-die attitude, which speaks volumes about the man.
In all honesty, the chances of Amézaga making the Opening Day roster for the Dodgers are remote at best; but there are two things that that you can absolutely count on: 1) He will have at least one huge fan at spring training, and 2) He will be giving it his absolute all, because that’s just who Alfredo Amézaga is.