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Pitcher Bobby Cramer Learned the Power of Hope

His key to success? Never giving up—and knowing that a little bit of hope can go a long way.

Pitcher Bobby Cramer held on to hope

Any minor league baseball manager will tell you that his players are divided into two categories: prospects and suspects. Suspects are those who have no reasonable shot at making the big leagues. Bobby Cramer, 30, was a suspect supreme.

A left-handed pitcher, the Seattle Mariners drafted him in the 38th round in 2001. He remained an afterthought, a roster-filler for the Mariners and then Tampa Bay till 2005, when he needed reconstructive elbow surgery and the then-woebegone Rays released him.

“I got released on April 1, 2005—on April Fool’s Day, and it wasn’t very funny,” Cramer told the New York Times. “I cried when they released me.” His career was over, he thought. And for a time it was.

Cramer took jobs inspecting oil pipelines and substitute teaching. But on Sundays he pitched in a recreation league and found he wasn’t ready to give up his dream. He signed with the Oakland A’s in 2007 and was assigned to one of their lowest-level minor league teams. At the end of the season he was released again. The following year he played in an independent league, unaffiliated with any major league team. Last year he re-signed with the A’s, only to be shipped to a team in Mexico.

By then he was 30, with few expectations. He had a hard time rationalizing why he kept playing. But he kept plugging away and, miracle of miracles, several weeks ago the A’s, in need of a fresh arm, called him up. On September 13 he pitched in his first big league game. Six days later he started against the American League Central Division champion Minnesota Twins and won.

“You always hope,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. “You try not to lose hope.”

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