Minor League Baseball is known for its rich history dating back more than 100 years. While much has been written about the best teams and top players who have graced the Minors, there remain many stories either untold or largely forgotten. Each week, MiLB.com will attempt to fill that gap and explore these historical oddities in our new feature, "Cracked Bats." Know of any stories to be considered for this feature in the future? Send an email and let us know.
RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. -- The evening of July 16, 2004, began like any other for Sean Rodriguez and Ryan Leahy. Sure, each of them got a hit in his first at-bat for Provo, but there was nothing so unusual about that.
Both were, and still are, steady and respected players, so leading off a Pioneer League game in such a fashion certainly wouldn't have anyone in the press box scrambling for a record book. But by the time the evening had come to an end, well, that's another matter entirely.
The folks in the media did have to go hunting for that record book, if only to find where they would be filling in the names of the teammates who each collected six hits in the same game for what appears to be only the second time in Minor League history.
Some players can go a week without getting that many hits. But on that night, in a small Utah town, Rodriguez and Leahy banged out six apiece in Provo's 23-6 victory over Missoula. Minor League historian Lloyd Johnson, who is also the editor of the Minor League Encyclopedia, told the Associated Press at the time that the performance marked the first time in 108 years teammates had collected six hits in one game.
Tom Turner and Harry Spies, said Johnson, were the only other pair to turn the trick, rapping six hits each in St. Paul's 41-8 Western League victory over Minneapolis on July 5, 1896.
From a statistical standpoint, Rodriguez had the edge on the history-making night. He outslugged Leahy, who had an impressive effort with six singles, an RBI and four runs scored, by connecting for a triple, three doubles and two singles, driving in six runs and scoring four times.
"We weren't all into it at the time," said Rodriguez, who is currently playing for Rancho Cucamonga, again alongside Leahy. "But then you realize you're 4-for-4 and 5-for-5, and you wanted more hits. The only time it really crossed my mind, though, was in my sixth at-bat, after he had gotten his sixth hit. I couldn't let him outdo me. But otherwise, we had no idea what we were doing."
Leahy, who signed with the Angels as an undrafted free agent out of Boston College just three weeks before his record-setting evening, was hitting second, followed by Rodriguez, who was a third-round pick in 2003 from Braddock High in Miami. Provo (now the Orem Owlz) erupted for six runs in the first inning off Tetsuya Yamaguchi, with Leahy contributing a single and Rodriguez adding a run-scoring double.
Provo batted around in that inning and again in a nine-run the sixth, when it sent 13 men to the plate. Rodriguez added a double and a triple in the sixth inning but couldn't come up with the home run that would complete his cycle. He did admit, however, that he was swinging for the fences in his final at-bat. The Angels collected 25 hits that night, and it seemed everyone on the team was contributing in one form or another.
"We had guys who were 2-for-5 or 2-for-6, and they would look at us and say. 'That's not fair,'" Rodriguez said. "Six hits, that's something. One of us could have gotten walked or hit by a pitch and that would have changed everything. I'll never forget that. Just to get six at-bats in one [game], your team has to be scoring some runs."
Leahy was on deck when the last out was made in the bottom of the eighth inning, otherwise he would have come to the plate for a seventh time -- and then there would have been real pressure.
"I didn't want to get up again and wind up screwing up," Leahy said.
Neither player got the chance to take that cut at a seventh hit, but the Hall of Fame didn't seem to mind. They requested the bats the players used that night to help preserve the memory of what took place.
"I could have used that bat again," Rodriguez laughed.
Leahy has gotten three hits in a game seven times since that night, while Rodriguez has put together a pair of four-hit games, both coming this season. Neither, however, has approached that magical performance in Provo. And neither thinks he ever will.
"For someone like me, who was just lucky to sign, that could be a career high for me," Leahy said. "That could be the highest achievement I ever have. It was Rookie ball in Provo, so it's not as big a deal as if it were Double-A or higher. But I was a utility infielder, and I didn't play much at all."
Leahy went 0-for-4 with a walk in the next game, while Rodriguez stayed hot, going 3-for-5. In fact, he sandwiched a pair of three-hit games around his history-making night, going 12-for-16 with 10 RBIs during that stretch.
"I don't care if it's Rookie ball, high school or college," Rodriguez said. "Some guys go a whole career without getting six hits in a game, not to mention going back-to-back with someone else. You always want to do something memorable. But you never know what it's going to be until it happens."