Mark Budzinski has doubted himself at times, but in the end, he's always come through for himself. At age 31, Budzinski knows that his best days, physically, are behind him. That doesn't mean that he can't still find his greatest thrill. "I came into professional baseball thinking that I would be in the majors before too long and all would be well," admits Budzinski. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened. Instead, he's into his 11th season of minor league ball with only seven major league at bats to show.
"I have to remind myself that there are guys who have never gotten the opportunity that I've had. I've been on a major league field and gotten a few at bats. Lots of guys never get that," said Budzinski. "Now, I keep my eye on making it to the next level, but I also have come to really enjoy what I'm doing. It's sort of an acceptance."
This season, Budzinski has had a lot to enjoy. He has hits in six of the seven games that he's gotten an at bat in and is hitting .433 (13-for-30) on the season at Scranton. Hitting leadoff, Budzinski has been a table setter for the bigger bats in the lineup. At least the ones that are supposed to be bigger. At this point though, only Ryan Howard (who is quietly hitting .500 for Scranton) has a higher average. It's a bit of a change for Budzinski, who has always been a good minor league hitter, but has gotten off to very few starts comparable to this one. "This is just one of those times when it's all going well. You can't explain it, you just hope it lasts for a good, long time."
Budzinski has been a big part of Scranton's early success. Scranton's 6-2 start has given them a two game edge in the International League's North Division. They've also had a knack for winning close games, going 4-0 in one run games.
Throughout his playing career, Budzinski has played under a number of different managers. His time in Scranton featured one of his favorites in Marc Bombard, who is now with the Philadelphia Phillies as their first base coach. Now, with Gene Lamont at the helm, Budzinksi is finding that the change hasn't been all bad. "Bomby was great. He was a real player's manager and he really inspired you to do well. Gene's a lot the same way. He wants you to have fun, but he relies on his players to do the job right, too," said Budzinski.
It turns out that Bombard has great respect for his former player, too.
"I've always thought that guys like Mark should somehow get a shot," said Bombard. "He comes to the park and plays hard, he's never bitter and he's always willing to help younger players." Lamont agreed. "When we got to Scranton, there was Budz showing some of the younger players around the park."
Whether or not Budzinski will ever get a chance to return to the majors, nobody knows for sure. He admits that it would be nice. He went 0-for-7 in a stint with the Reds in 2003 and would like a chance to at least get a hit in the majors. He's come to grips with his lot in life, but that doesn't mean that there aren't still a few dreams that could come true for Budzinski before his playing days come to an end. "You never know and that's what keeps me going," said Budzinski.