Baerga remains unforgettable
Former second baseman enjoys return to Cleveland roots
Carlos Baerga had stepped onto the field and heard the roar of the Cleveland crowd countless times.Apparently it never gets old. "I got chills," Baerga said. "It was a very special moment for me." The moment in question was Baerga's appearance at Progressive Field on April 15, when the former Tribe All-Star threw out the ceremonial first pitch before a game. This was Baerga's first trip back to Cleveland since 2002, when he was a part-time player for the Red Sox. While Baerga might not be a regular visitor to the building, he didn't need to wear a name tag. "The fans still remember me," he said with a big smile. "You don't even have to say my name. They remember what I've done before." In seven seasons with the Indians during the club's ascension from the doldrums of Cleveland Municipal Stadium to the renaissance that took place at the park now known as Progressive Field, Baerga did plenty to ensure his name will be etched into the hearts of those who watched him play. It began with his engaging personality and catchy smile and continued with his clutch hits at the plate. Between 1991 and 1995, he collected 890 hits and drove in 458 runs. And when the move was made to The Jake in '94, he was a leader in the clubhouse of a team that was just beginning to emerge as a powerhouse in the American League Central. One day, while touring the site of the new park as it was under construction, a reporter asked Baerga what the best part of the move would be. "We get to wear the red shoes!" Baerga said excitedly. Fourteen years later, Baerga looks back fondly at that first touring of the grounds of a park where the Indians would make many a memory. "We walked through the ballpark," Baerga recalled, "and I said, 'Wow. They're building this place with us, these young players.' When we came here, everything changed. It's like when you give a toy to your kids. They start smiling and jumping. To build a new ballpark for us was so special, because everything started clicking and we started winning." Two specific moments stand out to Baerga from those special days with the Indians. The first, as you might guess, was when he famously hit a home run from each side of the plate in the same inning of the April 8, 1993 game at Yankee Stadium. The other was Sept. 8, 1995, when the Indians clinched their first playoff berth since 1954 with a win over the Orioles. Those fond feelings, however, are tempered by what happened on July 30, 1996, when the Indians traded the popular Baerga and infielder Alvaro Espinoza to the Mets for Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino. Baerga had gained noticeable weight in the winter before the '06 season, and his performance had begun to decline.
|"After I got traded, I saw a lot of players go through that, and I learned something. You can be friendly all your life, but you have to hit. It made me mature in my career and my life."|
|-- Carlos Baerga|
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.