The Long Way Home
In his first at-bat as a Syracuse Chief, Buffalo’s Jim Negrych impressed.
Negrych reached base five times in his Syracuse debut on Monday. A day later, he was riding west with the Chiefs on the Thruway back to his hometown.
“I got good luck when it comes to Triple-A, because when I first got called up to Indianapolis our first road series was in Buffalo,” Negrych said recently in the Chiefs dugout at Alliance Bank Stadium. “It’s always exciting to go home and play where I have strong feelings toward that city and the community.”
In his first game back to Buffalo as a player, Negrych went three-for-four with a two-run homer for Indianapolis. His sixth-inning homer was the only offense in a 2-0 Indianapolis victory in front of “at least 50″ relatives and friends.
Negrych hit .295 in 48 games with Indianapolis in 2010, but was released after the season. He signed on with the Marlins and played all of last season in Double-A with the Jacksonville Suns. Miami cut the 5’8″ Negrych a day before spring training ended, despite a career .302 average.
“Every time I go someplace, they say, ‘you’re gonna have to work for it,’” Negrych said with a smile. “It’s been like that my entire life. Being 5’8″ from Buffalo it was tough for me to get legitimate college scholarships. I went to Pitt and did my thing there and got drafted. When I got drafted, they told me the same thing. Every year I play, I hear the same thing. I can honestly say that nothing’s ever been handed to me so I’m proud of that.”
Not making the Pirates and Marlins isn’t the worst thing that’s happened to the 27-year-old Negrych. On July 27th, 2009–not 11 months prior to his homecoming in Buffalo–Negrych and his Double-A team, the Altoona Curve, were tied at five with the Binghamton Mets. Binghamton’s Jose Coronado hit a bouncing ball up the middle which both Negrych and shortstop Brian Friday went for.
“It was a slow ground ball, I dove head first and our shortstop [Friday] slid and we connected like a figure eight. His knee hit me right in the top of the stomach,” Negrych recalled. ” It caused my stomach to start squirting blood.”
“Initially, I remember rolling around telling Friday that I think he got me pretty good there. I got up and I thought if I was up I thought I just got the wind knocked out of me. I stayed in the game and took my next at-bat in the bottom of the ninth. I remember running down to first base and not realizing there was two outs. I thought there was one out.”
“I went back into the dugout and said, “I’m starting to feel a little nauseous, I think I do need to come out of this game.’ I came out, went into the clubhouse, went to throw up and I threw up straight blood. It was time to tell the trainer I need to see somebody.”
The next day, Negrych checked into Altoona Hospital for emergency surgery to stop bleeding in his lower right abdomen. That wasn’t the end of the danger.
“There were some mistakes in the hospital where they fed me the next day and they weren’t supposed to,” Negrych said. “That turned into a bacteria infection in my stomach which didn’t pass. I went from being 185 pounds and ten days later being 155 pounds. It was an eye-opener and something that stuck with me. By the time the whole process was over and I was done with the other infection that I got in the hospital, I was 145 pounds looking at an offseason in 2010.”
Less than a year later, Negrych was back home, entertaining his friends and family in Triple-A. Now, two franchises later, Negrych is once again one promotion short of the big leagues.
“You just need to convince one guy,” Negrych said. “It’s just finding that one guy to convince.”
The Chiefs and Bisons play again tonight at 6:05 in front of, we assume, another Jim Negrych cheering section. Catch the game on The Score 1260 or online at thescore1260.com.