What the Twins catcher lacks in skills, he makes up for with a knack for lifting the mood, new dark hair and all.
FORT MYERS, FLA. - Matthew LeCroy's return to Twins camp raises questions no other player can answer.
Like: How's the gout? Is that hair coloring, or shoe polish? Are you really going to eat that? And: Where's your opossum?
LeCroy became a power-hitting star at Clemson, prompting the Twins to make him the 50th pick in the 1997 draft. He never developed into the kind of everyday catcher or power hitter the Twins expected, leaving him with two choices:
Sulk his way out of the game, or become one of the selfless, prank-playing good guys who populate big-league benches.
LeCroy would be happy to settle for the latter this spring, as he tries to make the Twins as a third catcher, pinch hitter and morale booster after spending last year with the Washington Nationals.
He returned to the Twins clubhouse this spring with noticeably darker hair, saying his gout is under control, jokingly offering to swallow a clubhouse cockroach in exchange for contributions to his retirement fund, but without the tin of road-kill opossum meat he tried to feed Eddie Guardado a few years ago.
"I never lost touch with him, but it is strange to see him back here with jet-black hair and a jet-black goatee," said Michael Cuddyer, who the Twins selected 41 picks before LeCroy in '97. "I guess he's making a statement that he's gotten younger somehow.
"To me, he looks like he's in one of those pictures from the '70s where the film starts going bad and the hair starts looking blacker and blacker and the face gets whiter and whiter."
LeCroy got 39 at-bats withWashington last year. He was released on July 24, re-signed with the Nationals on a minor league contract on Aug. 7, and then broke his wrist, ending not only his season but his hopes of playing winter ball.
"The Twins called in the middle of January," LeCroy said. "I had a couple of other teams call, but with nothing more than an opportunity, and I knew everybody here. This is the best thing that came up."
Rob Antony, the Twins director of baseball operations and contracts, was speaking to an agent about another player when LeCroy's name came up. Antony told GM Terry Ryan that LeCroy could be a good fit, considering manager Ron Gardenhire toys with the idea of carrying a third catcher, so he has insurance when Joe Mauer is in the lineup as a designated hitter.
The Twins signed LeCroy to a minor-league deal. He, in turn, gave them a high recommendation of Nationals pitcher Ramon Ortiz as a teammate and a talent, reinforcing their decision to sign Ortiz.
LeCroy is inextricably linked to another Ortiz. When the Twins released David Ortiz following the 2002 season, they reasoned that Ortiz had proved injury-prone and underproductive while LeCroy promised to balance their lineup with righthanded power.
Now Ortiz's annual goal is to win an MVP award and another World Series ring, and LeCroy's annual goal is to wear a big-league uniform.
He's got a chance mainly because he heeded that sage baseball advice: Don't make anybody angry on your way up, because you'll see the same people on your way down.
"He's a good baseball guy," Ryan said. "He fits in here, and he's got some pop. Maybe things will work out."
Cuddyer and LeCroy grew up together in the Twins organization, and LeCroy was in Cuddyer's wedding party in November, in Jamaica.
"It's hot, of course, and the wedding is outside, and LeCroy shows up with an Afro," Cuddyer said. "His hair was huge. He looked like Tom Hanks from 'Castaway.'
"We had lime-green Tommy Bahama shirts for the groomsmen, and by the time the wedding was over, his was forest green. Sweat was just pouring off him."
LeCroy says he wants to stay in the game when he's done playing.
"But you play as long as you can play," he said. "I'm just here trying to make the team -- like always."
|New England||2/1/15 5:30 PM|
|New York||49||3rd Qtr|
|Denver||9||1st Qtr 6:14|
|Winnipeg||2||2nd Prd 18:18|
|Boston||2||2nd Prd 15:34|
|Arizona||0||1st Prd 3:27|
|Dallas||3||1st Prd 5:53|
|Detroit||1||1st Prd 3:29|
|Columbus||0||1st Prd 1:17|
|Boston Univ||37||2nd Half|
|Fla Atlantic||25||2nd Half|
|Youngstown St||22||2nd Half|
|East Tenn St||30||2nd Half 17:13|
|Saint Louis||24||2nd Half|
|USC Upstate||44||2nd Half|
|High Point||33||2nd Half|
|Central Conn St||31||2nd Half 13:56|
|Western Ky||25||2nd Half 16:05|
|Dayton||44||2nd Half 15:15|
|Chattanooga||28||2nd Half 15:41|
|Wofford||32||2nd Half 17:27|
|Maryland||28||2nd Half 18:42|
|FIU||28||2nd Half 17:45|
|Fair-Dickinson||34||2nd Half 16:30|
|Mount St Marys||31||2nd Half 16:40|
|Bryant||39||2nd Half 16:34|
|Northern Ky||27||2nd Half|
|Coll of Charleston||23||2nd Half 17:24|
|Western Carolina||40||2nd Half|
|Sacred Heart||33||2nd Half|
|Lipscomb||25||2nd Half 18:25|
|Fla Gulf Coast||39|
|Kennesaw St||32||2nd Half 16:50|
|Appalachian St||12||1st Half 3:23|
|Holy Cross||18||1st Half 3:33|
|Eastern Ill||23||1st Half 3:52|
|Jacksonville St||4||1st Half 17:20|
|Connecticut||0||1st Half 16:20|
|Rider||2||1st Half 18:35|
|SIU Edwardsville||6||1st Half 16:38|
|SE Missouri St||4|
|Marshall||5||1st Half 19:12|
|Tenn Tech||6||1st Half 15:40|
|Middle Tennessee||5||1st Half 18:06|
|Ill-Chicago||0||1st Half 17:58|
|Weber State||0||1st Half 19:10|
|Denver||7||1st Half 16:59|
|North Dakota St||3|
|IUPU-Ft Wayne||4||1st Half 17:16|
|Louisiana||2||1st Half 19:35|
|Georgia State||7:15 PM|
|Ark-Little Rock||7:30 PM|
|Eastern Ky||8:00 PM|
|Idaho State||8:00 PM|
|Chicago State||8:05 PM|
|Utah Valley U|
|Cal Poly||9:00 PM|
|Santa Clara||9:00 PM|
|UC Santa Barbara||9:00 PM|
|Montana State||9:05 PM|
|Long Beach State||9:30 PM|
|Cal State Fullerton|
|Loyola Marymount||9:30 PM|
|San Francisco||10:00 PM|
|ULM||44||2nd Half 2:12|
|Pittsburgh||40||2nd Half 2:51|
|(6) Tennessee||25||2nd Half 19:37|
|(24) Oklahoma||35||2nd Half 18:54|
|Nebraska Omaha||34||2nd Half 15:54|
|UC-Riverside||39||2nd Half 18:51|
|Army||44||2nd Half 15:22|
|New Orleans||20||2nd Half 20:00|
|Charlotte||30||2nd Half 20:00|
|Towson||29||2nd Half 11:56|
|Hofstra||35||2nd Half 20:00|
|New Hampshire||33||2nd Half 14:33|
|Albany||49||2nd Half 15:52|
|Hartford||31||2nd Half 20:00|
|UNC-Wilmington||37||2nd Half 13:07|
|William & Mary||50|
|Alabama||21||2nd Half 19:18|
|(1) South Carolina||41|
|(23) Syracuse||0||2nd Half 16:51|
|Missouri||30||2nd Half 19:35|
|Iona||42||2nd Half 15:15|
|Manhattan||17||2nd Half 15:54|
|NC State||44||2nd Half 15:34|
|(4) Notre Dame||45||2nd Half 18:50|
|(22) Rutgers||28||2nd Half 18:43|
|(5) Maryland||48||2nd Half 20:00|
|Milwaukee||31||2nd Half 16:36|
|Wright State||64||2nd Half 16:43|
|North Florida||20||2nd Half 20:00|
|Stetson||19||2nd Half 20:00|
|Loyola-Maryland||31||2nd Half 12:36|
|Lamar||36||1st Half 5:24|
|Sam Houston St||28|
|Fla Gulf Coast||25||1st Half 3:40|
|Incarnate Word||7:00 PM|
|McNeese State||7:00 PM|
|Vanderbilt||0||1st Half 20:00|
|(18) Miss State||0|
|IUPUI||0||1st Half 19:20|
|Abilene Christian||3||1st Half 17:44|
|Oral Roberts||2||1st Half 18:26|
|South Dakota St||4|
|Louisiana Tech||0||1st Half 20:00|
|TX-San Antonio||0||1st Half 20:00|
|Texas-El Paso||5||1st Half 14:54|
|Auburn||0||1st Half 20:00|
|Grand Canyon||0||1st Half 20:00|
|Illinois||0||1st Half 20:00|
|(20) Iowa||12||1st Half 15:51|
|Utah Valley U||0||1st Half 19:49|
|Green Bay||3||1st Half 17:44|
|Ole Miss||8:00 PM|
|Portland State||8:00 PM|
|Sacramento St||8:00 PM|
|North Dakota||8:00 PM|
|Ohio State||8:00 PM|
|Northern Colorado||8:00 PM|
|St Marys-CA||9:00 PM|
|UC Santa Barbara|
|San Diego||9:00 PM|
|UC Davis||9:00 PM|
|Long Beach St||10:59 PM|
Poll: Which of these teams is the most frustrating to watch right now?