Greg Dobbs: Heathly and Hittin'

After missing all but two games of 2003 with a torn Achilles heel, Greg Dobbs is back in Double-A with San Antonio. Given every reason to hang his head with what he's gone through, Dobbs tells Joe Weiss that his spirits are high in this exclusive.

The original Achilles, hero of Greek lore, had but one weakness, one chink in an otherwise unassailable façade of skill and strength, and, in time, it led to his downfall. As many legends are, though, his is a cautionary one; in particular, it speaks of the fragility of flesh and the fact that we mere mortals can never escape the bounds of our breakable bodies, at least not until those bodies, themselves, give us that final, forever permission to go.

For Achilles, that permission was granted when a divinely guided arrow found that mythic soldier's heel and the tendon that now bears his name. Two games into the 2003 season, rising star Greg Dobbs was similarly felled when the same strip of muscle unexpectedly snapped in half; but whereas poor Achilles' wound put him on the DL permanently, Dobbs' progress was merely delayed.

Greg Dobbs is no Achilles, though: he's a real person who's never slain a Trojan citizen (that we know of, anyway), but he's been a San Antonian hero of late in the eyes of Missions fans, slaying opposing pitching so far in 2004 and earning an impressive .338 BA in 71 AB that has Mariner management recalling another tale of irony and injury from the mists of the past; this anecdote, however, ends on a happier note for everyone involved.

Dobbs had been on his way to second at the time the tendon broke, running out a double just as he did three times in Thursday night's game against the Wichita Wranglers. Confused more than hurt by his suddenly uncooperative limb, he managed to crawl to the bag and earn the extra-base hit.

"I didn't know what was wrong," the third baseman said of the fateful day his leg gave out from within. "I just knew that something terrible was wrong."

According to Dobbs, a litany of dark thoughts arose in those moments when the diagnosis was still unclear and the feared extent of the damage was limited only by his imagination.

"You've got anger setting in. You've got frustration," Dobbs described to in a pre-game interview on Friday. "You're saying, ‘Why me? Why now?'"

It wasn't long before a healthy stoicism took the place of anxiety, though.

"I didn't panic. I didn't stress out. I just wanted to know what was wrong and how to remedy it," he said. "I was more like, ‘All right, Doc. How do I get back out onto the field? What's the right way to go about it?'"

Enter backup third baseman Justin Leone. At first just the pinch-runner for Dobbs at second, Leone went on to accept with gusto his role of the replacement, making the team forget about the replaced. Leone had been putting up mediocre numbers playing for San Bernardino, but when opportunity knocked and presented him with a new Mission statement, the Las Vegas native responded, hitting .288 and clubbing 21 homers on his way to being named Texas League MVP and Mariners' minor-league player of the year. Leone was subsequently promoted to AAA in 2004.

How did Dobbs respond to all that Leone must have been enjoying? Was a second year playing AA ball insulting?

"It makes sense for me to come back to AA," Dobbs said. "I finished the season before I was injured, so it's basically like I'm starting again last year, before I got hurt. That's how I look at it, and I understand how the organization looks at it. For me to miss a whole year and then be promoted and skip another level? I don't know if that's ever been done or ever would be, so I don't feel cheated at all."

Added Dobbs: "I was just happy to play and, hey, wherever [the organization] has to send me, send me. I know I missed a year, and I have to make up for lost time."

And make up for lost time he has, playing as if trying to cram two seasons' worth of stats into one. As of Friday, he's tied for second on the Missions with nine multi-hit games, and tied for second with a pair of three-hit performances.

"We're not playing against each other," he said, dispelling any perceived animosity between himself and his once teammate who's now just beginning to earn his keep as a Rainer (.264 with a team-leading six homers). "I'm not playing against Justin, and Justin's not playing against me. We're playing against the game."

And so far, the advantage is theirs.

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