“The best 48 days of my life.” – Sean Kazmar, Jr
Nearing the end of his 5th professional baseball season, Sean Kazmar Jr strode to the plate in San Diego’s Petco Park. The date was August 13th, 2008. It was his first Major League Baseball at-bat, the culmination of a lifelong dream.
He’d been drafted by the Cardinals in the 32nd round out of high school, but turned that down to play college baseball. After a year of college baseball he’d been drafted again, this time by the A’s in the 37th round, but turned it down once more. Then, in the 2004 Amateur Draft, the San Diego Padres drafted Sean Kazmar Jr in the 5th round. He was a professional baseball player.
Now, he was facing the Brewers C.C. Sabathia, the prize of that year’s trade deadline a month prior who would go on to nearly singlehandedly push the Brewers to the playoffs for the first time in 25 years. Kazmar settled into the box. On the first pitch of the first day of his Major League Baseball career – he swung and connected for a single.
He finished out the season for a Padres team just two years removed from being NL West Champions but also two years into a postseason drought that would stretch for 12 more seasons. He would collect 8 hits and play in a total of 19 games. He finished with 48 days as a Major Leaguer. The best 48 days of his life.
It’s now Spring Training 2021, and Sean Kazmar Jr is still playing baseball. He’s in Spring Training again for the Atlanta Braves. He’s played 7 years now for the Braves AAA team, 16 total minor league seasons. He holds the AAA Gwinnett record for hits, games played, and several others. Records that do count for something.
Sean Kazmar Jr knows that he might not get back to the major leagues again. He has been there after all. He knows so many never get to the majors at all, and he doesn’t take that for granted. He said in a 2017 interview “I’m fortunate. Every year I get to keep playing. I know I’m fortunate to be out here, to be able to play baseball.” Indeed.
And so, while many might question what keeps Sean coming back year after year, Sean is not one of those people. In 2019 he added “relief pitcher” to his resume, finishing out 3 games allowing just one hit and 0 runs in the process. He loves the game of baseball. That is all he needs.
If he manages to get into a Major League game this season – it will have been 13 years between appearances. The record is 22 years by Paul Schreiber, who debuted at 20 and wasn’t seen again in the Majors until he was 42 years old in 1945.
Baseball needs more guys like Sean Kazmar Jr. He plays a pivotal role in the minor league system for the Braves, mentoring prospects and providing a dependable presence for the team. He’s not extraordinary – there is a reason he has stayed in AAA – but he doesn’t hurt the team either. They know what they have in Sean Kazmar Jr. He doesn’t have the power of fictional minor league legend Crash Davis, but he has hit a home run in Spring Training this year for the Braves. Could this be the year he makes his return?
He made a great video last year with Chase d’Arnaud talking about Covid-19 and being a teammate. “At the end of the day, we need baseball.”
What if life isn’t about just succeeding only at the highest levels? If success is simply excelling where you are, for those you care about the most. Sean Kazmar Jr teaches us a little something about hard work, persistence, and dependability. To some, those best 48 days of his life would be a tragedy. A sign of a hope lost, a dream referred. For Sean Kazmar Jr – those are days to be celebrated – and days that bring hope there are more best days to come.