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Published: Wednesday, 7/4/2012

Lindsey takes long journey to Toledo

Infielder has played 18 years in 15 cities

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
John Lindsey. John Lindsey.
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John Lindsey has taken a long, difficult road to reach Toledo.

His career spans 18 professional seasons and 15 different teams stretched from New Jersey to Florida to California -- with a stop in Mexico thrown in for good measure.

But it's a testament not only to the hitting ability of Lindsey, but also his character, that teams such as the Mud Hens are willing to give Lindsey a chance to play for them this season.

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"And if you look at the things he has done in his career, he has been pretty impressive.""Tim Wallach is a person in this game that I respect a lot, and he said Lindsey is at the top of the list of quality individuals he has managed," Toledo manager Phil Nevin said. "The John Lindsey story is pretty special.

Lindsey's journey from his hometown of Hattiesburg, Miss., to Toledo this year began in an unlikely place: Mexico.

"This past offseason I couldn't find a job in the States, so I signed with the team in Mexico City," he said. "On my third day there, I got traded.

"Then I missed the first two games of the season because I got food poisoning -- I had to go to the emergency room. But after that, everything went well, and it led me here."

Lindsey batted just .161 in his first eight games for the Laguna team in the Mexican League this year, then went on a 20-game hit streak and never stopped hitting. He finished with a .341 batting average, 21 home runs, and 64 RBIs.

But that saga is nothing compared to the rest of his career, which saw Lindsey struggle for 15 seasons in the minors -- never rising above Single-A in his first seven years -- before finally getting an 11-game cup of coffee with the Dodgers in 2010.

Why did he keep plugging away in the minors when the odds of making the majors were against him?

"There were times on the buses where I would think, 'What am I doing with my life?' " Lindsey admitted. "But then I would think about my family: My dad worked, my mom worked, and they sacrificed so I can do what I love to do -- and I get a salary for it.

"What more can you ask for in life than to do what you love and get paid to do it?"

Lindsey's minor-league odyssey saw him play 1,571 games at a variety of levels before getting promoted to Los Angeles to play for the Dodgers in September of 2010.

"It was the last day of the season, and my wife was driving from [our] home to pick me up," Lindsey said. "Right before the game, they told me I was going up to the big leagues.

"When they told me, I was so excited and relieved it was like I was floating in space. It was a moment in time … and I still get goosebumps thinking about it now."

Lindsey said the difference between the big leagues and the rest of his baseball travels was obvious.

"Once you get on the diamond, it's all baseball," he said. "But everything else around it is different [in the major leagues].

"It was thrilling to put on the Dodger uniform and think about the guys -- people like Sandy Koufax and Jackie Robinson -- who wore that uniform. Knowing I was amongst a select few who have played in the majors leagues is a special feeling."

At age 35, Lindsey's career statistics are impressive. Before this season began he had hammered 213 career home runs, with a single-season high of 26 for Triple-A Las Vegas in the Pacific Coast League in 2008. Lindsey began this year with 981 RBIs, with 100 of those coming for the 51s in 2008.

He earned his promotion to the Dodgers in 2010 by leading the PCL with a .353 average and adding 25 homers and 97 RBIs in 107 games.

None of that helped guarantee he would have a job this season.

"Last year was a tough season because I went on the disabled list three times," Lindsey said of his season with Albuquerque in the PCL, a year that saw him hit .309 with 13 homers and 49 RBIs in 75 games. "It made it tough to find a job before this season.

"I had to rededicate myself to training my body: I lost 40 pounds since last year, and I'm doing everything I can do to keep sipping from the Fountain of Youth.

"When you're in the minor leagues at 35, you're old. When you're in the major leagues at 35, you still may have a few good years you can grind out."

So why does Lindsey keep playing?

"I love to play the game of baseball," he said. "There's nothing else I'd rather do.

"A lot of people have options -- I want to do this, I want to do that -- but I just love playing the game. I felt I was good enough to play in the major leagues, and I still do, so that's my motivation.

"I believe in myself."



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