Sean Kazmar makes it back to majors after 13-year absence

Atlanta Braves' Sean Kazmar Jr. bats during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Saturday, April 17, 2021, in Chicago. Kazmar Jr. returned to the major leagues after an 13-year absence, pinch hitting for the Braves. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty) (Paul Beaty, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

CHICAGO – Sean Kazmar Jr. grounded into a double play — and sounded overjoyed.

“Definitely everything and then some,” he said. “What an amazing feeling.”

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While Kazmar and the Atlanta Braves lost to the Chicago Cubs 13-4, his pinch-hit appearance in the fifth inning marked the 36-year-old infielder's first major league game since Sept. 23, 2008, with the San Diego Padres — a span of 12 years, 6 months, 25 days.

“Obviously wasn't the outcome we were looking for. A win would have been nice,” he said. “But what a good feeling — just last night when Snit told me and waking up and then getting that opportunity early in the game was awesome. But, again, yeah, man, amazing feeling, and hopefully stick around a little longer.”

Kazmar was in his hotel room Friday night watching the Braves' game on television and realized his odds of a callup were getting better when Ender Inciarte injured a hamstring in the fourth inning and Ozzie Albies Jr. was hit on the right calf by Justin Steel's pitch in the ninth.

“Watching the game and seeing everything kind of go down,” Kazmar said. “I tell guys all the time you never know in this game. And sure enough, obviously, I’m a testament to it. You never know."

He got a call after the game to contact Braves manager Brian Snitker.

“That was probably one of the greatest moments I’ve had as a manager at all the levels, quite honestly,” Snitker said. “It’s amazing. You go from ’08 to 2021, in between, you’ve got to be kidding me, to have the perseverance and the dedication and the drive.”

Kazmar was at home living on unemployment insurance last year during the COVID-19-shortened season, when the minor leagues were called.

“There could have been obvious times where I doubted that this opportunity would ever come,” he said. “Honestly, it never really left my mind, especially the last few years that I've been playing in Gwinnett I still felt like I had the ability to play at this level. Just super fortunate to get this opportunity — one to do it with an Atlanta Braves uniform on and secondly to do it at Wrigley Field is amazing.”

Kazmar appeared in 19 games in 2008 with San Diego for his only previous major league action, and had since played in Triple-A for the Padres, Seattle Mariners, New York Mets and Braves, plus Double-A for the Mets — a total of 1,106 minor league games.

The gap between big league appearances was the greatest since that of right-hander Ralph Winegarner, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Winegarner played on June 23, 1936, for the Cleveland Indians and did not return to the majors until July 7, 1949, with the St. Louis Browns, a span of 13 years, 14 days.

Kazmar took a curveball from Trevor Williams for a strike, fouled off two fastballs, then grounded a curveball to second for a 4-6-3 double play.

“Looking back at those 12 whatever years, 200 days, it kind of flew by in a sense,” he said. “You only get one shot at this career. It didn't seem as long as it felt.”

His wife, Jen, made it to Wrigley for the game.

“I knew my wife would drop everything she has. She was actually at our boy's — Sean III, his baseball game had just started. And luckily enough we had the in-laws in town,” the elder Kazmar said. “Her and my mom were able to rush and get on a red-eye last night. And obviously with all the (COVID-19) protocols and stuff, it's kind of weird not being able to see them. I got to say hi to them before the game.”

NOTES: The Braves also placed left-hander Jesse Biddle on the active roster, recalled right-hander Bryse Wilson, placed left-hander Sean Newcomb on the injured list, and put Inciarte on the 10-day injured list with a strained left hamstring on Saturday morning before their game against the Cubs.


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