It's been a long journey for Carson City's Dave Lundquist to realize his dream of pitching in the Major Leagues.
And while Lundquist came close to giving up on that dream, he never lost sight of it. Now several years and shoulder surgeries later in which he was told by doctors he would never throw a baseball again, Lundquist is now a relief pitcher for the San Diego Padres.
While Lundquist's earned run average ballooned from 4.30 to 7.20 after a tough outing on Monday at Coors Field against the Colorado Rockies, the 1991 Carson High graduate had been having a solid stint with the Padres since being called up late this summer.
On Monday, Lundquist took his first loss of the year, allowing five runs on three hits while walking three in just 1/3 of an inning. Up until then, Lundquist had an excellent strikeout to walk ratio with 16 strikeouts and only two walks.
The appearance against Colorado was Lundquist's first in more than three weeks. Lundquist said he had been recently bothered by tendenitis in his elbow.
But that minor injury was nothing compared to what he went through in 1995 when he was pitching at the Class A level.
The right-handed Lundquist had fully torn his rotator cuff and said his "shoulder came out of the socket on many occassions."
"It was pretty much enough to make me quit," Lundquist said. "I had doctors tell me I'd never make it. They were actually pretty serious."
But two surgeries later, Lundquist returned to pitch. "I was either too stubborn or too stupid to listen to them," said Lundquist about the doctors. "You try to put it in the back of your mind. Hopefully, you can bounce back."
After stints at UNLV and junior college, Lundquist was signed by the Chicago White Sox and eventually made it to the big leagues for the first time with the White Sox in 1999.
"You end up in little towns you never heard of," Lundquist said. "The ultimate goal is to make it all the way. You try not to lose sight of that."
Lundquist had a short stint with Chicago and needed another surgery to repair a slight rotator cuff tear. Lundquist was claimed off waiver by the Kansas City Royals, but was eventually released by the Royals.
After being released by the Royals, Lundquist thought his career was over.
"After that I said that's it. I've had enough. I gave it everything I had."
But last year, Lundquist pitched in an independent league, playing at a Division II college field near Baltimore. Lundquist admitted going from Comisky Park to that small of a field was a humbling experience.
"That was a pretty bad experience," Lundquist said. "It makes you really appreciate what you had."
Coming into spring training this year, Lundquist said he knew with his medical past, that Major League teams would be relunctant to take a chance on him. Lundquist, though, still had a 95 mile an hour fastball. The Padres decided to take a chance on Lundquist and assigned him to their Triple A affiliate in Portland.
"They at least gave me an opportunity," Lundquist said. "I knew my arm was strong."
After a solid year with Portland, Lundquist was called up twice in one week late this summer by the Padres. After the first time Lundquist was called up, though, San Diego didn't complete a trade as expected and Lundquist was sent back to Portland without being activitated.
"Everything you don't want to happen, does happen," Lundquist said. "You starting giving up on yourself a little bit.
"Right when it's in your finger tips, it's stripped away. You don't know what to think."
The Padres, though, eventually completed their planned deals and Lundquist was called back up and he's been with San Diego ever since.
"It was just a matter of time when I was going to fit in their plans," Lundquist said.
"I don't want to say that I've proven myself," Lundquist also said. But he did say he hopes he has shown "that I can pitch here and compete."
As a relatively new Major League pitcher, Lundquist said he knew he had to prove himself with umpires, who tend to squeeze the strike zones of young pitchers. He said his experience in Chicago helped prepare him for what to expect.
Lundquist said the Padres are "first class all the way." He said while he would like to come back with the Padres in 2002. But if it's not with San Diego, Lundquist said he's confident he'll make an opening day roster with a Major League team next year.
Eventually, Lundquist would like to be a closer. He's learning from one of the best now in Trevor Hoffman and Lundquist said he would be foolish not to take advantage of the leader that Hoffman is.
It's been a long journey for Lundquist, which he said began under coach Ron McNutt at Carson High.
"I probably wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for coach McNutt," Lundquist said.
-- Charles Whisnand is the Nevada Appeal Sports Editor.