Chris Mabeus, who was raised in Soldotna and played baseball for the Soldotna Little League, the American Legion Post 20 Twins and the Peninsula Oilers, has not realized his dream of playing in the major leagues yet.
After last week, however, Mabeus, 24, has a golden opportunity to realize that dream when spring training commences.
That's because the Texas Rangers are betting $25,000 that Mabeus will spend all of next season on their major league roster.
Monday, the Rangers selected Mabeus, a right-handed reliever, in the first round of the major league portion of the 2003 Rule 5 draft. Mabeus was selected from the Oakland Athletics organization.
"It's a huge deal. This is a chance to live out my dream," Mabeus said Thursday by phone from Palm Springs, Calif., where he makes his home in the offseason.
Understanding the Rule 5 draft is, as Mabeus put it, "pretty technical."
Mabeus has played three years in the minor league system of the Athletics. That makes him eligible for the Athletics' 40-man roster.
Mabeus combined to go 3-3 with a 2.76 ERA in 62 innings and 42 relief appearances with Single-A Modesto of the California League and Double-A Midland of the Texas League this season. The A's also selected Mabeus as one of six prospects in their organization to play in a fall league this year.
With such a good year under his belt, Mabeus figured he had a good shot at getting protected on the A's 40-man roster.
Mabeus was not protected by the A's organization, which is stocked with pitching prospects. That made him eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
The Rangers selected Mabeus in the Rule 5 draft for the price of $50,000. He must spend the whole season on the Rangers' 25-man major league roster or be offered back to the A's for $25,000.
"We drafted a reliever with the idea that it's probably the best position to stick with us," Rangers general manager John Hart told MLB.com. "There wasn't necessarily a position player we wanted. There was a lot of pitching taken and that's what people look to do. We are a little short right-handed and it's a long shot, but we liked the kid."
Mabeus realizes he still has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to stick with the Rangers.
"Things are going well, but I haven't done anything yet," Mabeus said. "My goal is to pitch in the big leagues, and this is definitely a great opportunity, but I haven't proven myself yet."
Mabeus said the Rangers now have 22 pitchers on their 40-man roster. The way he sees it, there will be nine or 10 guys fighting for four spots on the Rangers' big-league roster.
"Sometimes, there's 11 guys fighting for one spot," Mabeus said. "It's up to me to have a great spring training."
Mabeus said one thing he has going for him is the support of Grady Fuson, the assistant general manager for the Rangers. Fuson was the scouting director for the A's when Mabeus was drafted out of Lewis-Clark State College.
"He's a groundball guy, 90 to 94 mph, a developing split and an OK slider with a good body," Fuson told MLB.com. "The bottom line is that this kid's ability to throw strikes was a big part of it."
Regardless of whether Mabeus is able to make good on this opportunity, the pitcher said the rate at which he has progressed through the minor league system is a good sign.
Mabeus said the opportunities he had to hone his craft in Soldotna Little League, the American Legion games and Peninsula Oilers games were invaluable.
However, in Alaska baseball is only played for a short time period during the year. Mabeus said he has been able to unearth a lot of potential now that his every day is focused on being a better baseball player.
Mabeus, who returned to the peninsula to see his family Saturday, also gave credit to his wife, Ann, for helping him get to this point.
"It's not the glamourous life everybody thinks it is," Mabeus said. "My wife finished off college at Lewis-Clark State, then moved to Modesto. A couple of days later I got moved to Midland and she had to move all over again.
"As dedicated as I am, I couldn't be where I am without the support of my family."
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