September call-ups. For most teams, it’s about seeing what an organization has for the coming season. Giving promising young talent a chance to make an impression on the big club prior to the offseason.
Sometimes, that impression is bigger than others.
My son was working on a school project in which the assignment was to uncover the story and meaning behind their name. My son Spencer was born the morning after the New York Yankees won the 1999 American League Championship Series and just before the Atlanta Braves won the National League pennant.
My wife and I had decided over the summer, that we would name our boy Spencer, because I had liked how it sounded. But the name was only in my head because that previous Fall, Shane Spencer made the most of his September call-up.
As a 26-year-old rookie, he did little to impress in the handful of call-ups earlier in the season. But on September 4th, 1998, Spencer made his presence felt, homering in his first game back in the Bronx.
Spencer would go on to a September slash line of .421/.476/1.105 with 8 homers and 21 RBI. He hit three grand slams in the month, including two in the final four-game series of the season against Tampa Bay.
He earned the nickname Roy Hobbs, after the main character in the movie The Natural, because of his raw power and the fact that he was an older rookie.
Sadly for Shane, his popularity and big league success was short-lived. On the night we went to the hospital to deliver our boy, Shane Spencer was held hitless with three strikeouts. But we were in love with the name and we stuck with it.
As fate would have it, our Spencer is not a ballplayer. He likes baseball – mostly because I do – but does not play. Oddly enough however, my boy possesses the same spark, grit and determination that was on display in the Bronx in the Fall of ’98.
My Spencer has been telling us since he was 3 years old that he was going to be a rock star. Now, at the age of 15, he’s taught himself guitar, performed on stage with Weezer and has performed with a local group in front of thousands.
So while some September call-ups mark the beginning of Hall of Fame careers, others mark a player’s only cup of coffee in the bigs, the call-up of Shane Spencer not only gave the Yankees that late spark that propelled them through October to another title, it also sparked at least one baseball fan (and a non-Yankee fan at that) to bring that name – and the spark that comes with it – into the family.