Lundquist has had quite a journey
PEORIA, Ariz. — There are so many ways for a baseball player to make the major leagues. Dave Lundquist thinks he’s experienced them all. Or, at least he hopes so.
After leaving the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in the early 90s, Lundquist has had quite a journey. The 1991 Carson City High grad hopes it has a happy ending. But that would mean earning a spot on the San Diego Padres’ opening day roster — and staying there. After pitching brilliantly so far this spring for San Diego, he’s close.
“It’s just like when everybody tells you that you can’t do something and then you work twice as hard to get there,” Lundquist said about how it feels to be so close to achieving his ultimate goal. “I’m almost there but it was tough (to get here).”
Lundquist, 29, isn’t kidding. On April 6, 1999, after several years in the minors, he made his major league debut with the Chicago White Sox. He threw a scoreless inning of relief in an 11-3 win over Seattle. Then, things went downhill — and fast. After that brief stint with Chicago, Lundquist needed rotator cuff surgery in his right shoulder, his throwing shoulder. Then he started the long road to recovery. But he didn’t think it would be as long as it was.
He bounced around the Independent Leagues for almost the entire 2000 season. His career hit rock bottom in July of that year when he was playing with Aberdeen of the Atlantic League.
“I told my coach during the all-star break that I was done playing,” Lundquist said. “My shoulder just couldn’t take it anymore.”
Lundquist returned to his home in Hickory, N.C. He decided that he’d never be the same pitcher again. His shoulder just wasn’t right. But he starting lifting weights, and his drive to play was resurrected.
“After a while, I could feel life was coming back into my shoulder, it was almost back to normal,” Lundquist said. “I could just feel it getting stronger and stronger. That’s when I knew I could come back.”
With a strong shoulder and a renewed outlook on his baseball career, Lundquist was ready to play again. There was only one problem — nobody wanted him. So it was back to the Independent Leagues.
“It was awful,” Lundquist said. “There’s decent competition there and some good players, but it wasn’t for me. A lot of the guys were at the end of their careers. I just couldn’t stay there. I looked at it only as a rehab assignment.”
Out of nowhere, a Padres scout noticed Lundquist and got him out of the cellar. The rest is history, he hopes. Lundquist made 50 appearances with the Portland Beavers last season, San Diego’s AAA affiliate. He went 4-7 with an ERA of 3.11 and struck out 67 batters in 63 2/3 innings. He was moved up occasionally to the big leagues last season, pitching 19 2/3 innings with the Padres. He certainly thinks he’s paid his dues.
“The Padres were really the only team to give me a shot after that (shoulder surgery),” Lundquist said. “They gave me an opportunity when nobody else did. I want to do the most I can with it.”