Scott McClain said he likes to finish what he starts. Needing just one run to reach the 1,000-run milestone Monday night, the 15-year veteran surpassed the plateau with some game heroics.
The 36-year-old McClain scored his 1,000th career run in the first inning, hit a dramatic game-tying homer in the bottom of the ninth and capped his memorable night with a walk-off home run in the 11th to lead the Fresno Grizzlies past the visiting Portland Beavers, 11-10.
McClain went 4-for-5 with four runs scored and three RBIs in one of his most memorable games. Upon crossing the plate on Justin Leone's first-inning three-run homer, McClain became the only active player in the Minors with 1,000 career runs scored and 1,000 RBIs.
"It's pretty neat, I'm pretty proud of it," McClain said. "It's nice to get it out of the way."
McClain kept on chugging away, outdoing himself with each ensuing at-bat. He walked and scored his 1,001st run in the third on Travis Ishikawa's two-out single, singled again in the seventh and scored run No. 1,002 with a one-out solo homer in the ninth to keep the game alive.
"I just attribute it to staying consistent for a long time and playing on some good teams," McClain said. "To be honest, I knew I needed 50-something runs coming into the year. But to be honest I didn't even know I was one shy until yesterday when I saw it on the scoreboard."
A three-hour, 42-minute game came to a fitting end in the 11th when McClain slugged his 279th career home run on a 2-1 pitch from Justin Hampson, a mammoth shot that sailed far out of the ballpark over the left-field wall.
"There's kind of an old adage in baseball that says, if you tied it, you're supposed to win it," McClain said. "It was pretty exciting. It was an offensive game for both sides and pretty neat when guys are waiting for you at home."
McClain, who has 17 homers this season, leads all active Minor Leaguers with 279 career home runs over 15 seasons. That total doesn't include the 67 homers he hit over three seasons in Japan.
"I haven't felt great this season and I haven't been able to get the ball in the air," said McClain, who was selected by Baltimore in the 22nd round of the 1990 Draft. "Hopefully it's a sign of more to come."
The infielder's 18-year-career is a model of consistency. He's reached double digits in home runs in 10 of his 15 Minor League seasons. He's hit at least 20 homers in seven of his 15 campaigns and scored at least 60 runs 10 times.
A lifetime .267 hitter entering this season, McClain's four hits lifted his 2008 average to .308.
"It ranks pretty high," McClain said of reaching the 1,000-run plateau. "Last year my 1,000th RBI came in the last game in Fresno, it was pretty great, I had three RBIs that night, so I guess it's kind of funny that I get the runs and RBIs on real big nights. Any time we get a win also, it makes it that much better."
Not that the RBI milestone doesn't mean equally as much to him.
"I'm real proud of it," McClain said. "The big thing for me, being a power hitter, is being able to get 1,000 RBIs."
Leone, who made his Major League debut in 2004, had a night at the dish as well. The outfielder went 3-for-3 with two homers and tied a career high with six RBIs for his biggest offensive output of the season. It was his biggest effort since homering and plating six for Class A San Bernadino on June 1, 2002.
"I'm happy for him," said Leone, whose six RBIs was overshadowed by McClain's historic night. "I'll give him a little [ribbing] tomorrow for stealing the spotlight, but I don't care, we won the game."
McClain, a Simi Valley, Calif. native, signed with Baltimore out of high school in 1990. He spent time with Rookie-level Bluefield, Class A affiliates Kane County and Frederick, Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Rochester from 1990-1997. He homered in his first professional game with Bluefield on June 24 against Pulaski.
The third baseman signed with Tampa Bay in 1998 and made his Major League debut with the Devil Rays that summer, his first of two seasons with the organization.
McClain, an International League All-Star from 98-99, joined Colorado in 2000 and hit .276 with 25 homers for the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
Being the active Minor League home run king is somewhat of a double-edged sword for McClain, who has toiled for 11 different Minor League teams.
"It's kind of an interesting honor. You hit enough to stay around for a long time time in the Minors, but not enough to stay up in the Majors," he said. "It was a big night, and I drove the ball well."
Leone praised his teammate for his hard work.
"I totally enjoy playing with him," he said. "We both have similar outlooks on how to play the game. We play the game the same way, we play hard. We're in the same boat in being in Triple-A, and we enjoy each other. We have a lot of fun."
McClain, who led the Durham Bulls to the International League Championship Series in 1999, joined Seibu in Japan and hit 39 homers in 2001. He returned to the States in 2005 and signed with the Cubs, eventually appearing in 13 games for Chicago that summer. He moved to Oakland and played for Triple-A Sacramento in '06 before crossing the bay for San Francisco in 2007.
Minor League records aside though, McClain admits he suits up every spring with one goal: returning to the Majors.
"It's always the goal, every year," he said. "It's the reason why I sign back, to find a spot in the big leagues. The Giants called me up last September, so it was pretty easy to sign back here this year.
"I'd like to get up there whenever I can," he added. "Hopefully in September they'll consider bringing me up, let me enjoy September up there. I have quite a few friends up there rooting for me."
Fresno is McClain's 11th different Minor League team. McClain signed with Japan's Seibu Lions in 2001 following a solid year with Colorado Springs and back-to-back All-Star seasons for Triple-A Durham.
Leone, batting .244, has ridden several hot streaks this season. He homered in three consecutive games on two occasions, from April 21-24 and April 28-30. He went deep in two of his first three games to start the year and has homered three times in his last two games for Fresno (41-49).
"It's great, I feel pretty good," Leone said of his big night. "I'm just glad to be back playing."
Major League veteran Billy Sadler (1-0), the seventh pitcher used by Fresno, struck out one in the 11th for the win. Hampson (1-1) did not record an out and took the loss for Portland (46-43).