A Tale of Two Homers

On the cosmic scale, the two home runs in the top of the ninth against the Braves Thursday made only a blip. Of course, it boosted the Dodgers to a rare spring victory but looking at them another way, they were the perfect example of a story within a story.

One of the players was a first round draft selection that had to move from shortstop to the outfield because of a bad back. The other was an eighth pick in 2003 that switched from the infield to behind the plate because of a faulty glove.

One was a fielder looking for a bat, the other a hitter looking for a position. One hits with power, the other for average.

Outfielder Jason Repko, missed all of 2007 with a badly torn hamstring. He missed a chunk of 2006 with a badly sprained ankle in early May. Then following the season, he had an operation for plantar facitis on his foot.

In 2001 it was a bad back that it forced him to switch from shortstop to the outfield. In 2000 he tore his hamstring during spring training and missed the season.

If you wanted a tough luck tattoo, you would have an image of Jason Repko on your biceps.

He dazzled the Dodgers with his play in the field in 2005, manning center 58 times, 24 in left and 42 in right.

He built on that reputation in 2006 -- between injuries that is -- making only two errors in the outfield.

With the possible exception of Andruw Jones and his 10 Gold Gloves, Repko is the best outfielder in the Dodgers system.

Many questioned if he would ever handle Major League pitching on a regular basis after hitting .232 over 198 games in his two seasons in The Show.

He was 1-for-10 before slashing a pair of singles in the Wednesday game against New York.

And with the game-winning grand slam against Atlanta, Repko raised his average for the spring to .286, his on-base percentage to a sparkling .412 and his RBI total to six in but 14 at-bats.

As a matter of record, Repko said it was his first professional slam. "The last one was Hanford High School, 1999," he said.

The second player, Lucas May, is another hitting machine from the state of Missouri. He set a high school record for most career doubles (35), including 12 in one season.

In 2003 he opened his rookie season with the Gulf Coast Dodgers by hitting .355 in his first nine games but slipped to .252 by the end of the season. However eight of his 40 hits were for extra bases.

Trending toward power instead of average in his second season, this time at Ogden, he had 12 extra base hits, including five home runs, in 34 games.

Following the season, the team indulged in what Branch Rickey termed 'Coconut Snatching,' moving a player from one position to another. May moved from shortstop to the outfield in 2004 and his home run total bloomed to nine at Columbus.

A second season at Columbus in 2005 saw him smack 18 home runs, nine triples and 27 doubles and knock in 82 runs.

Still not satisfied, the Dodgers asked the youngster if he would move behind the plate, a tough position to pick up after playing in the field his entire life.

"Sure," he told them and was went through intensive work during the spring with organizational catching coach Travis Barbary.

The struggle continued throughout the season at Inland Empire and, as can be imagined, one might think results were spotty.

But Barbary didn't think he did badly at all.

"The kid is an extremely hard worker and is extremely talented," he said the day after his student banged a three-run homer to tie the game against Boston and set up Repko's heroics.

"He came along much faster and has come further than any of us thought he would," he said.

So among too many assorted passed balls, May soldiered on, learning along the way and not letting the nuances of blocking a ball in the dirt distract him at the plate.

Along with minor league veteran John Lindsey, May became one of the top power hitters in the Dodgers minor league system.

He set career marks with 25 home runs and 89 runs batted in, adding 25 doubles and three triples in 2007.

Over his brief professional career, he has collected 152 extra base hits (57 homers) over 1648 at-bats which compare favorably with (another infielder-cum-catcher) Russell Martin's minor league totals of 94 extra base hits (29 homers) in 955 at bats.

What do the two home runs mean? Not much, it seems. There is no room on the roster for Repko on a club that already has five (Pierre, Jones, Kemp, Kent, Young).

"There is no reason to think about it," Repko told Tony Jackson of the L.A. Daily News. "I'm taking it day by day, just keeping myself healthy, getting myself here early and doing whatever I can to keep my body right. If I just keep playing hard, that other stuff will take care of itself in the end.

"After the last couple of years, I'm just happy I can play."

If he opens the season at Triple-A Las Vegas he certainly won't be out of mind.

"He is going to call attention to himself," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "I think that is probably his goal for the spring, to let people know what he is, and he is certainly doing that the right way. He is going after it. If we have to say goodbye to him, we certainly won't forget him."

As for May, he will probably open the season at Double-A Jacksonville, work hard on his mechanics, cut down his strikeouts and keep pounding the ball.

The one thing the two players share, apart from the once in a lifetime home run explosion, is their work ethic.

Few if any players in the system are more devoted to the game and are willing to put in the time that it takes to get better at it. It's as much a talent as recognizing pitches or hitting them. And they both have it.