Seems Like Old Times For Cresse

Like all players, Brad Cresse spent this spring preparing for the future but he can be pardoned if it was one in which the past seemed to crowd in. For everywhere he turned, nostalgia was present.

Brad's father Mark became a bullpen coach for the Dodgers in 1974. Four years later, Brad was born and it became a family custom to take him to spring training even before he could walk. "Every spring I was here for six weeks," he recalls. "When I got old enough for school, they hired a tutor for me."

As he looks around, he remembers, " The (minor league ) coaches' room was the major league locker room then and that's where I played. What a thrill it was to be around those guys. Even some of the coaches now were here during that time- Jon Debus, Shoe (Jacksonville manager John Shoemaker ), of course. I remember Mariano Duncan as a player. So, I really felt like I was home when I reported here."

As Brad grew, he was schooled in catching by his father so it seemed absolutely natural when he was drafted by the club in 1996 as he finished high school in Huntington Beach, an LA suburb. You'd probably think he couldn't wait to grab a pen and sign but it didn't work out that way at all. "They took me in the 34th round and only made an offer the night before I was to leave for college. By then, it was too late."

He enrolled in LSU ,which he says, " was the right choice for me., We won two national titles while I was there and I had a great time. "He certainly did, making All-American and in 2000 was a fifth-round draft pick of the Diamondbacks.

It was all going so well for awhile. "I made AA in my first year, I was up in AAA the next. I was on the fast track and 2003 was going to be my year. But it all went wrong."

Not that he blames fate or an obtuse management or anybody or anything else, for that matter. "I had the opportunity. I just let it slip through my fingers."

So, instead of the sure-pop big leaguer he had seemed destined to be, he became a drifter . He was traded to the Expos in January 2004 but returned two months later, only to be released. The Expos picked him up again, then promptly traded him to the Cardinals. They released him, then re-signed him. All this and never getting even one day of big league time.

In the meanwhile, his dad became a victim of the Dodger infamous 1998 purge - almost as an innocent motorist gets involved in a chain-reaction smashup as in one night, general manager Fred Claire, manager Bill Russell and just about everybody in sight was swept away.

Yet, here, today, Brad is at last a Dodger, having signed as a free agent last December. Nor is there any lingering resentment on his part toward the club about what happened to his father. "That's strictly between my dad and them," he maintains. "My agent and I talked it over and this seemed like a good fit for me."

And that, of course, was a different management team, too. In fact, Mark visited Dodgertown this spring to see his son in action and evoke some memories himself.

Certainly, Brad made the most of his time in camp. It had been thought that he might be a backup somewhere but, instead, he showed enough that he won the starting job at Jacksonville. Now, he's there, at age 27, still seeking that big league chance that had once seemed so certain.

The next time he comes back to Dodgertown he hopes it's to the big league clubhouse that was built during his years away from the place. That would make everything old become new again, which would certainly be fitting.

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