Iorg's Long, Impressive Road to Erie

There's so much to say about Cale Iorg that trying to describe him is a daunting task. At the age of 23 he's experienced and accomplished things that would take many a few lifetimes to fulfill. Do you tell his story as a baseball player, or do you describe him as a the incredible human that he is? Both prisms are too narrow to really encapsulate the journey he has taken to get where he is today.

The story on Iorg, like him, is a long one – all 74 inches. You could spend pages discussing his upbringing: how he basically grew up in clubhouses while tagging along with his father, who managed in the Blue Jays' minor league system before becoming a roving instructor for the Brewers, and spent his youth taking batting practice and playing catch with future major leaguers.

Then there's his decision to abandon his family and girlfriend, who happens to have looks that would stand out on a movie set, and risk the millions of dollars that awaited him in professional baseball to go on mission for God. This sounds more like a movie script than a mere subplot in a sports column.

Then, of course, there's baseball, which, really, just happens to be the vehicle that allows Iorg's story to be told.

The Early Years

Iorg was born into baseball royalty. From a young age he knew he was destined to be a baseball player, it was all he ever knew. His father Garth, whom Cale is actually named after (real name: Garth Cale Iorg) played for the Toronto Blue Jays from 1978-1987 and his uncle Dane played for several teams throughout the late '70's and early '80's.

Their third brother, Lee, played in the Mets farm system for three years reaching AAA.

"Growing up around the game and being in clubhouses from a very young age, I knew this was the lifestyle I wanted for myself," Iorg said. "There was never any doubt."

All three of Garth's children would eventually make their way into professional baseball to varying degrees of success.

His eldest son, Issacc, played for four years in the minor leagues with Toronto and Atlanta, before giving up the sport after the 2004 season. His other son, Eli, plays for Houston's Triple-A affiliate, the Round Rock Express, where he is currently hitting .209.

Coming up with two athletic brothers pushed Cale and helped shape him into the player and person that he is today. "Growing up everything was really competitive. Eli being older, he always won. Anything we did, running, throwing, jumping, wrestling, would get really competitive, and we were always together," Iorg said. "Mainly basketball, though. We fought a lot. It'd get pretty heated."

The College Years

Most college freshmen spend their time studying for exams, going to classes, chasing girls, working the social circuit, and trying to find out who's having the best party on Friday nights.

Most college freshmen who happen to play baseball at a major university, and are good at what they do, spend their time refining their craft in an effort to draw the attention of major league scouts. Once they do, they work even harder to climb up the rankings to increase their draft position.

Most college freshmen aren't Cale Iorg.

Iorg was in a position that most amateur baseball players would covet. He was a regular on the scouting circuit as a freshman at the University of Alabama, where he hit .280 with five homers, 48 RBI, and 15 steals, and was quickly cementing his status as a five-tool prospect.

"I saw him play in high school and college and was really impressed with him. There wasn't a thing he couldn't do on the field on either side of the ball," a scout explained. "What really struck me, though, was how well he carried himself. [He's] a great kid."

Most people that have worked their whole lives towards a goal and are within inches of achieving it would drop everything and put all their effort into advancing past that last hurdle. Especially when that goal brings wealth and fame.

Most people aren't Cale Iorg, though.

Iorg was excelling in baseball, as well as in life. One might even say that Iorg had it all. That is, except Iorg himself. So he decided to put it all on hold and head off to Lisbon, Portugal on a Mormon mission to spread the word of God.

The Mission

This is something that most people can't even comprehend. Getting to church on a Sunday is a daunting task for many American's, sacrificing everything for two years- your job, your friends, your loved ones- to spread the word of God in a foreign country is something that most simply will not do.

"I was raised in the church and had a very good family. This was something I knew I wanted to do from a young age, it was all planned. It wasn't something where one day I up and decided to go, I knew for a while," Iorg explained.

Once you sign up to go you can be assigned to any location in the world. The missionaries work long hours trying to spread the Mormon message to passerby's on the street. There are no visits home and phone calls can be made only on Christmas and Mother's Day. Mail – both electronic and physical- is issued once a week. Other than that, you have no contact with the world you once knew.

"Our soul purpose was to preach the word of god to anybody we could- on the streets, on the buses, in houses, anywhere we could offer help," Iorg explains. "It was the best experience of my life, you could write a book on it. I don't regret it for a second."

The first year that he was in Portugal he stayed in shape mostly by playing soccer during his free time, it wasn't until after the second year that his family sent him a mitt and two baseballs. The first baseball was quickly lost during a game of catch when it found it's way into the bushes. The second suffered a similar fate after Iorg and a friend sent it crashing through a car windshield which he was required to pay for. He never got the ball back.

During his time there he never even swung a bat.

For most players a two-year hiatus would be a major road block in their development, if not a retardant to their future in the game. Not too many players could walk away from the sport for two years and be drafted by a major league club without proving that their skills hadn't eroded.

It didn't matter to the Tigers, they didn't think that Iorg was like other baseball players. They liked what they saw in him while he starred for Alabama and Karns High School in Tennessee-it also didn't hurt that he had a rich baseball lineage- and felt that he was worth a sixth inning flier in 2007 draft.

When Iorg returned in July they worked him out and liked what they saw, but Iorg was strongly considering a return to college at Arizona State University, where he had transferred. He ended up signing the day before the deadline for $1,497,500, well above the recommended slot value of $123,500.

What changed his mind?

"It was money."

The Professional

Iorg's first full season in the minor leagues in 2008 was a little bit rough, but that was to be expected. He can't be perfect at everything.

While still working off the rust from his two-year absence, he managed to hit .251/.329/.405 with 10 homers, 47 RBI, and 22 steals. He was set to refine his craft in winter ball but was forced to the sidelines when he became injured.

Still, the club was so inspired by him that Dave Dombrowski, the general manager of the Tigers, proclaimed him the Tigers' shortstop of the future over the winter.

"We've got a couple real good young guys in our system," Dombrowski said. "I think Cale Iorg is going to be an All-Star, and I think he's going to be an All-Star very soon -- I mean, real soon."

That might be an added layer of pressure for many young guys, but Iorg just took it as a compliment from his boss and states that it actually took a layer of stress off him knowing that the organization is pleased with his progress.

"It felt good. It felt real good to hear that from your future boss knowing that he has that kind of faith in you," Iorg said. "Honestly, though, I don't take that as any kind of pressure."

Even with that vote of confidence from the boss, Iorg is still struggling in his first season with Double- A Erie. His defense has been off the charts, and he routinely makes plays that leave the crowd, the visiting team and even his teammates awe-struck.

It's his bat that needs to catch up.

Through his first 47 games Iorg is hitting .213/.254/.356 with four homers, 20 RBI, and has struck out 52 times against just eight walks.

"Last year I proved I can strikeout with the best of them and it's happening again this year. It's been a struggle so far," Iorg said. "I have stretches where I feel good and I have stretches where I feel bad. I'm just trying to get more comfortable, see the ball well, and make contact."

"He's young, that's part of being a young hitter," hitting coach Glen Adams added. "He'll turn that corner and when he does, look out."

Not many baseball players can just pick up a bat after two years and succeed, so I guess Iorg is like the rest of us in at least one way. But when he shakes off the last of that rust and catches back up to the speed of the game, he'll separate from the pack and fulfill the prophecy that Dombrowski laid out for him.

Why? Because Cale Iorg isn't like the rest of us.

In most ways, he's better.

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