Thurston: The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow

<b>VERO BEACH, Florida</b>-- Over the winter, Joe Thurston was dropped from the Dodger 40-man roster. Yeah, the same Joe Thurston who a couple of seasons ago was the organization's Player of the Year and touted as the next second baseman in Los Angeles. Now, he's with the club as a non-roster invitee.

So, you figure if ever a guy had to feel like a Guantanemo Bay detainee and shout, "Get me out of here," it would be he. Grumble? That's not in Joey's lexicon. To the contrary, you can almost hear Annie singing "Tomorrow".

"When they dropped you off the roster, you were a free agent," you begin. "Did you ever think it was time to move to another organization?"

"Well, I guess I was, technically, but I leave that sort of thing to my agent," is the reply. "I'm just happy to be here."

"Did you work it out that you'd sign even before they made the move?"

"No, we made the deal after it was done. We really didn't discuss it before."

"Do you have a deal like some others do that if you're not up by a certain date, you have to be either released or traded?"

"Nothing like that at all. There aren't any guarantees. "

"Don't you ever feel like slamming your fist down and saying, 'Play me or trade me !'?"

"No, that's the easy way out. I don't want to be negative. I want to be the guy who they say has a great attitude."

That's Joe, a ball of sunshine to brighten the sometimes heartless world this game resides in. Last year he was up for a month fairly early, didn't play much, then was sent down to Las Vegas where he had trouble getting going. Of that, he says, "Basically I came back and thought I would do great things because I expect a lot of myself. But I was playing every day and finally got it going late."

The suggestion that sitting for days at a time, then being called upon late in a game is hardly a fair measure of a player's worth is no excuse he ever bothers with either." I think it's an honor to be called up. When they do, they have a role for you in mind so whatever that role is, pinch-hitting, pinch-running, playing in the field, you just have to be ready to do it to try to help the team."

He wound up with a more than respectable .284 mark at Vegas despite that slow beginning, then got his annual September call once more. Now, though, he's here with Antonio Perez clearly ranked a head of him, battling not to be placed in the legion of the lost again. But that smile is ever present.

"It's going very good, " he says of his spring. "I'm working and getting ready."

And what does he think he's getting ready for? Could it be his fourth stay at Las Vegas?

"That's in God's hands," says this devout man. "I'm a baseball player and I know I can play in the big leagues. God has a plan for all us, I truly believe that. My job is to work hard and get ready to play."

You have to hope that Leo Durocher wasn't right when he made his famous statement about where nice guys finish. No, there just has to be a place on a big league roster for a guy who plays the game like the one they have nicknamed "Joey Ballgame."

So, join with me, if you will -- "The sun will come out tomorrow, "