Legendary big league iconoclast Bill Lee once wrote a memoir entitled Have Glove, Will Travel
. Scot Drucker can certainly relate.
Drucker, currently a free agent, was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in 2004 and was most recently a member of the Detroit Tigers organization. In six professional seasons, he has suited up in the Northwest, Midwest, California, Eastern and International Leagues, not to mention a stint in the independent American Association as well as offseason employment in the Arizona Fall League and Puerto Rican and Dominican Winter Leagues.
Have glove, will travel
I first spoke to Drucker in early November, when he was pitching in the Dominican Republic as a member of the esteemed Tigres del Licey franchise. It was an interview that was postponed several times, as Drucker hadn't been able to track down someone whom he referred to as "the phone card guy."
"We've got guys out here [outside of the stadium] selling everything from phone cards to windshield wipers. It's like a mini-Canal Street," he explained, after finally finding his man. "Everyone's just trying to make a buck."
And that includes Drucker himself, who readily espouses the economic benefits of playing professionally in Latin America.
"In Triple-A the standard salary is $2,800 a month, but down here you can make three times that standard," said Drucker, who spent the 2010 campaign with the Toledo Mud Hens. "And for guys with families or who are just paying their own bills, that helps very much. I hate to say that money is the main reason, but, yeah, that's the truth."
Also of great importance is the opportunity to showcase one's stuff in front of prospective employers.
"[In 2010] I thought my numbers were worse than the pitcher I was. And now I'm a free agent and want to show early on how well I can pitch," said Drucker, who went 4-5 with a 5.61 ERA for Toledo, mostly in relief. "There are scouts and executives down here, and you see them at the ballpark. ... There are a lot of free agents playing [in the DWL], both Latin Americans and imports, and that means a lot of guys vying for jobs."
But whether mercenaries or hometown heroes, all DWL players can't help but feed on the intense atmosphere that surrounds the sport. Drucker says that games in the Dominican Republic are "double-barrel from the first inning on."
"It's serious here," he continued. "If there's a man on second with less than two outs and he gets moved up, then everyone goes crazy, jumping around and blowing on the vuvuzuelas. It's a real cool experience, and I'm glad I got to come down here."
It's an experience that Drucker seeks to share with as many people as possible. A self-described "tech-savvy guy," he blogs and tweets regularly about his international baseball adventures.
"I want to provide those on the outside with an inside look, without crossing any boundaries," he said.
Thus, those who follow him on Twitter (@utbaseball30) were regularly provided with observations about bus drivers shagging fly balls during batting practice, stadiums unable to turn on their lights until 6 p.m. and the country's prodigious goat population. Meanwhile, Drucker's video of the Tigres del Licey cheerleading squad dancing atop the dugout has been viewed over 100,000 times on YouTube.
"The sights and sounds may be different, but it's still the game of baseball," he said.
But as much as Drucker seemed to enjoy his time in the Dominican Republic, not much of it was spent on the pitcher's mound. He made just three appearances over a 12-day span (totaling 1 1/3 innings) and eventually opted to return to the States.
"I wasn't on the roster for nine days in a row," he explained, this time speaking from his Miami-area home. "For the first three days it was good, nice to have a couple of days off. ... I talked to [manager] Dave Clark about it, but it wasn't just his decision. Sometimes the GM gets involved, and the president and the board of directors too. [Tigres del Licey] is an organization that takes great pride in winning, and they were going to stick with the guys that they knew."
So Drucker returned to his home state of Florida, where he continues to throw (and blog and tweet) regularly while staying in constant contact with his agent regarding future employment opportunities. He also has more time to work on his online business Superkix.com, which he describes as "a middleman for rare, authentic shoes, everything from $30 Converse to $5,000 or $6,000 original 1985 Air Jordans."
"I've always been into shoes and like to collect older and rare ones, but there's a whole world of counterfeit sneakers out there," said Drucker, who cites his ultra-rare Nike "What the Dunks" as a personal favorite. "I wanted to create a place where people can comfortably and confidently purchase shoes from a legit source."
But playing the game of baseball always takes precedence, and Drucker is hoping to continue his 2010 season in Venezuela if the opportunity presents itself.
"[Playing in Venezuela is] up in the air right now, but I'm staying in shape and throwing regularly," he said. "I've heard mixed reviews [about playing there], with people telling me not to bring anything nice, and that they don't have milk. ... It's a real unique set of do's and don'ts. I've never had an issue, but you always hear the worst-case scenarios."
It's also another opportunity for international travel, something that Drucker never wants to take for granted.
"Playing baseball, I've been able to see the world," he said. "They may not always be the brightest and biggest places, but I'm still getting to do it, and it's been great so far."