Final Flash of Winter Creates a Childhood Memories
By Christian Petrila
Throughout the Flash in a Pan series this winter, I tried my best to stick with retired players whose Indians career we all knew was over. However, for the series finale, I chose to focus on a player who’s still active, but left a lasting impression on yours truly in his brief time with the Indians.
It’s Chris Gimenez’s time to shine.
Gimenez was a 19th round pick in 2004 for the Indians. The first interaction I had with Gimenez was actually when he was in Lake County during the 2005 season. I was just 12-years-old, so I really had no idea who any of these guys I was watching were. Despite that, I still got to the game early and was more than excited to get one of my favorite Indians hats signed. The very first guy out of the clubhouse for autographs was none other than Mr. Gimenez. My mom told me to turn around, as she had the camera primed and ready to go. Years later, I finally realized that the player in the picture was Gimenez.
Moving on from that game in Lake County, Gimenez continued his trek through the Indians system, hitting consistently well at every level. Finally, after five-plus years in the minors, Gimenez made his MLB debut on June 3, 2009 against the Minnesota Twins.
That June 3 game saw Gimenez enter as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning. However, the next day, he made his first start for the Tribe. He went 2-4 with a solo home run that went 406-feet into the Metrodome seats. His next start came three days later against the Chicago White Sox and he followed up his debut with another home run (this one only went 399-feet). He would slow down his tear, though, and finish the year with a .144 average, three home runs and seven RBI.
The next year, Gimenez was limited to just 28 games. He hit only .190 with one homer and eight RBI. However, the homer was nothing short of jaw-dropping. It was on Aug. 27 against the Royals. The Indians clobbered Kansas City that night, and Gimenez helped with a three-run home run to dead center field. Just how dead center was it? 436 feet into the trees.
Once again, there’s a personal story to accompany this. I was actually at the game that night. It was the beginning of my senior year in high school, and I was just named the sports editor of my school paper. After the game, I thought it would be a cool idea to send Gimenez a little questionnaire and see if he would answer a few questions for the paper. I also sent along my ticket from the game and see if he’d be willing to sign it (unprofessional, I know). He came through with flying colors… and then some. First, he signed the ticket and inscribed it with “1st 2010 home run!” Secondly, he answered my questions and gave me permission to use them in the next issue of the paper. Needless to say, my section was the most popular that issue. Here are the questions and answers:
How did it feel when you first got called up to the Majors?
“It was the best feeling I have ever had. I was so excited that I had made it, and I started to achieve my dream.”
Who is the toughest pitcher you’ve faced so far in your career?
“Zach Greinke. He’s really good.”
What type of friendship/bond do you have with the rest of the team?
“I have a lot of good friends on this team. I believe you have to respect your teammates. Respect and friendship go a long way in the clubhouse.”
Do you keep in touch with former minor league teammates like Brian Finegan?
“Finny is one of my best friends. I talk to him often and he was even in my wedding last year.”
One last personal story, after the season, Gimenez signed with the Seattle Mariners. I sent him a copy of the paper with the interview just so he could have a copy. I also wrote an extensive thank you note. I also sent him a ticket stub from the aforementioned Captains game just to get a signed ticket stub from every game where I had seen him play. He returned the ticket with the inscription, “To Christian. Thanks for all your support!”
Gimenez’s 2011 season started out promising, but hit a major snag when he suffered a strained oblique in late June. He wouldn’t play again until September. When the season was over, he hit .203 with one homer (this one 407-feet) and six RBI.
Gimenez was one-and-done in Seattle, as he signed with the Rays before the 2012 season. He played in Triple-A between May 28 and Sep. 1, but came back just in time for one of his more memorable games. It was a Sep. 3 game against the Yankees, and CC Sabathia was on the mound. With the game scoreless in the bottom of the second, Gimenez lined a single to right center. Not to be outdone, in the eighth with the score tied at three, Gimenez lined a go-ahead single just under Robinson Cano’s glove to give the Rays a 4-3 win.
As this year’s spring training gets underway, Gimenez is on Tampa Bay’s 40-man roster trying to earn a spot on the 25-man. It’ll be a tough task considering the tough competition he has; but if the phrase, “good guys finish first,” has any merit, Gimenez has the spot on lock.