Almost every kid who has played baseball has dreamed about playing in the big leagues.
Matt Spencer was one step away from that dream last season as he played outfield and first base for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, playing at the highest level of minor league baseball.
Now Spencer is wearing a Boise Hawks uniform and preparing to begin a new season of short-season Class A baseball in the Northwest League.
For years, Spencer hoped his bat would help him get to baseballs biggest stage.
Now the focus is on his left arm. Hes converted to pitching.
Hopefully, its not starting over, said Spencer, who at age 26 will be the oldest player on Boises roster when the Hawks open at Salem-Keizer on Friday night. Boises home opener is Wednesday night against the Eugene Emeralds.
I have experience, maybe not as much pitching experience, but baseball experience, Spencer said. I think my game plan on the mound should be a little better than a rookie.
As crazy as it sounds, the idea to convert didnt come completely out of, well, left field.
Spencer shined as a left-handed pitcher and an outfielder during two years of college at North Carolina and one year at Arizona State.
It was always the backup plan. When I was getting drafted, everybody was talking about pitching, said Spencer, who was selected by the Phillies in the third round in 2007. Some teams were going to take me as a pitcher and some were going to take me as a hitter.
A year ago, Kyler Burke was in Boise and taking the same path. The former outfielder is now pitching at the next level with Peoria, where hes 2-2 with a more-than-respectable ERA of 2.13.
Spencer has enjoyed the change to pitching.
Its been different and challenging, but I think its fun at the same time, he said.
Hawks pitching coach David Rosario understands why the major-league affiliate Chicago Cubs approached Spencer about the conversion after last season.
You look at baseball right now, and every organization is battling to get left-handed arms, Rosario said. Hes a big, 6-5 guy who can throw the fastball anywhere from 90 to 94 miles (per hour).
Spencer has the talent, and he has the speed. Now, its a matter of getting some experience at the pro level.
He has really good stuff and throws hard, a smooth delivery, Hawks manager Mark Johnson said. Hes just got to pitch.
Not that Spencer wouldnt mind picking up the bat a time or two again this season.
Hopefully, if we get in a big situation and I havent been in the game yet, M.J. will look to me for a clutch hit, Spencer said.
But if Spencer does reach his dream of making the big leagues, it looks like it will be more about clutch pitching than clutch hitting.
Rosario said theres no reason that Spencer shouldnt keep that dream alive.
Yeah, he said. Why not?
Chris Langrill: 377-6424