MLB teams can sign international prospects at the age of 16, which means that many of the players being signed to contracts this season were born in 2002.
Why is 2002 significant? That’s the year that the Texas Rangers’ newest player was drafted, and he has now finally made his way to the majors.
Pitcher Brandon Mann has been called up from AAA and will make his MLB debut after being drafted 16 years ago.
The well-traveled Mann was taken in the 27th round in 2002 and has spent the last decade-and-a half in the minors and overseas.
Rangers purchase contract of LHP Brandon Mann, who turns 34 Wednesday. 17th year in pro ball, pitched for 5 different organizations, 3 different independent teams & 2 years in Japan. First big league call-up. Talk about persevering!
— Robert Ford (@raford3) May 13, 2018
Mann played for 16 different teams in the minor leagues, independents and in Japan. He’s been a member of five different big league organizations and joined the Rangers in 2018.
“It means everything,” Mann said about the opportunity on MLB.com. “Pretty amazing. It has been a long journey. I’m pretty excited. I always believed so. I always told myself I was a big leaguer. To keep grinding it out to get the opportunity, you have to believe that you are.”
The closest he came to the majors before this week was when he received a spring training invite from the Nationals in 2012. After not making the big league team, he then returned to Japan and pitched for the Yokohama BayStars.
He then appeared to have another shot after the 2015 season in which he pitched in the independent American Association. Mann set the league’s single-season strikeout record and was picked up by the Athletics after the season.
But the following spring he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug and was suspended for 80 games. When he returned, he bounced between rookie ball, Double-A and Triple-A without ever receiving a call-up.
After getting married in November, the 33-year-old admitted he started thinking about his post-baseball career.
“There was a good month and a half before I got signed where we were like, ‘If no teams call, are you ready to be done?'” Mann said. “I was at a point where I didn’t want to go back to [independent] ball. I had done it multiple times already and I believe in my heart that I was definitely capable of pitching in the big leagues. It’s crazy how it happens.”
This season Mann has a 1.04 ERA in 12 games with the Round Rock Express in Texas.
With Mann being called up, someone has to be sent down, and that someone is lefty Yohander Mendez, who has thrown two-thirds of an inning this season.
It’s unknown if the Rangers plan to keep Mann on the roster for the long haul or if he’ll just have a cup of coffee in the majors. But he’ll get to experience what it’s like at The Show, and he can finally call himself a big league player.
Mann will be one year younger than Jim Morris was when he made his MLB debut at 35 for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Morris’ story was turned into the Disney movie “The Rookie” in which he was played by Dennis Quaid.
Mann’s journey is also similar to that of Andre Ingram, who got called up to the Lakers in April after 11 years in the G-League and playing overseas.
The 32-year-old Ingram became the oldest American rookie in the NBA in over 50 years, and he scored 19 points in his Lakers debut.
Ingram also made 73 percent of his G-League salary in just two games with the Lakers, and Mann should also cash in with those MLB checks.
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