Baseball is a job for Mike DeButch and Rob Wishnevski, and it has been for
DeButch, a graduate of Bloom High School in Chicago Heights, is in his
seventh professional baseball season playing with his fourth organization.
Wishnevski, a former Portage standout, is in his second year in the Milwaukee
Brewers farm system and fifth season overall.
But neither DeButch nor Wishnevski consider baseball work. And both say the
minute they give up the dream of making the major leagues, they will think
about getting a real job.
"I said going out of college I'd play till it wasn't fun anymore," said
DeButch, who is the starting second baseman for the Detroit Tigers' Class AA
affiliate in London, Ontario.
"I'm still having fun."
So is Wishnevski, who is the top reliever for the Milwaukee Brewers' Class
AAA farm team in Denver.
"Once it's not fun anymore, I'll get out," said Wishnevski, who doesn't
expect that time to come soon.
"Every day it's fun to come to the ballpark," he said. "We play jokes on
each other. It's just a bunch of good guys."
There have been times, especially in the last two years, when DeButch wasn't
having much fun.
After starting his career in the San Diego Padres organization, he was
traded to the New York Mets and worked his way up to Class AAA Tidewater. But a
cracked vertebrae sidelined him for the second half of the 1990 season.
Partly for the money and partly for the experience, he went to China for
three months in the ensuing winter to coach. Hustling off-season work is a
common practice for minor league players, whose salaries don't come close to
those of their major-league counterparts.
DeButch was pondering whether to stay overseas or to resume his playing
career when he was contacted by the Chicago White Sox, who needed an infielder
at Class AAA Vancouver.
But it didn't work out.
Before leaving the Far East, DeButch said, "I ate some contaminated food. I
went to Vancouver and I started getting sick. They ran some blood work and
found out I had hepatitis.
"They told me, 'Go home. You're done for the season.'"
Between the injury and the illness, DeButch figures, he missed "close to a
season and a half."
During the last off-season, DeButch thought again about retirement. But the
Tigers called, looking for an infielder at London, and DeButch jumped at the
"Playing every day is the main thing," said DeButch who was hitting .262
with three homers, 22 RBI and 58 runs scored (seventh best in the Eastern
League) through Thursday.
The other factor that influenced DeButch's decision to keep playing is the
upcoming expansion in the National League. The Colorado Rockies and the Florida
Marlins begin full major- and minor-league operations next season.
"They're going to draft a lot of players," DeButch said. "Other teams are
going to lose players. There's going to be a lot of movement.
"Anyone who's even thinking of retiring after this year should wait," he
Wishnevski is not necessarily setting his sights on playing for one of the
new National League teams, however. He's happy to be with the Brewers, who
acquired him and another player in a trade that sent outfielder Candy Maldonado
to Toronto last season.
"It wasn't a surprise," he said of the trade. "They were shopping me around,
trying to find somebody they could use."
The Blue Jays decided they could use a veteran hitter like Maldonado more
than another young pitcher like Wishnevski, and the move appears to have been
mutually beneficial. Wishnevski - who has a team high of 11 saves - believes he
is on the fast track with his new organization.
To complete Wishnevski's transition from starter to reliever, "the Brewers
told me I'm going to play winter ball in Phoenix," he said.
He is looking forward to the chance to play winter ball without traveling to
the Caribbean, as he has done in past years.
"Instead of going to Venezuela and working on my Spanish, I'll be going to
Arizona and working on my tan," he said.
All in all, it doesn't seem like a bad life to Wishnevski and DeButch. When
their opinions of that change, so will their careers.