Love of the game keeps Lucas going

Mariners third baseman not ready to give up on another shot at Majors

Love of the game keeps Lucas going

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Ed Lucas could be doing a lot of things right now. He owns a degree in sociology and economics from Dartmouth. He's already been offered an internship to work for a Major League Baseball front office.

But Lucas still has the itch. He still wants to play, which is why he finds himself sitting in the Mariners' Minor League clubhouse each morning, preparing to put his work in, get a few more at-bats and see where it takes him.

After being sent down Sunday after four weeks in Major League camp, Lucas almost certainly will start this year at Triple-A Tacoma, but that doesn't seem to faze a man who has played 1,049 Minor League games over the past 12 years.

What keeps him coming back?

"The love of baseball, first and foremost," said Lucas, who hit. 290 in 31 at-bats while playing mostly third base for the Mariners this spring. "I love playing, but I enjoy the game, too. A lot of guys don't watch on TV or want to forget about it when they're not playing, but I'm kind of the opposite. I'm a baseball junkie.

"I've had times in my past when I thought about stopping, but I've been fortunate to kind of continue to get thrust into the right situations. I'm fortunate to still be playing."

The closest Lucas came to calling it quits came in 2012, when he was 30 years old and had yet to make the Majors, coming off his fourth straight season in Triple-A. He was playing for the Angels at the time, when new Mariners manager Scott Servais was their farm director.

"He was going to shut it down and retire," Servais recalled. "We offered him our intern position, he accepted and was on his way driving from the East Coast out to Los Angeles when he got a call. This was like in mid-January, and the Marlins wanted to bring him to their big league camp.

Lucas' RBI ground-rule double

"He said, 'You know what? This is kind of my last gig. I'll go and take the big league meal money in camp, and after I get released, I'll drive out to Anaheim.' He ends up having a pretty good camp, and he calls and says, 'I'm going to turn it down. I'm going to go to Triple-A, they're going to pay me 15 grand a month. I'm going to go ahead and take that. But as soon as I get released, I'll come out and take the job.'"

But as fate would have it, Lucas finally got his Major League shot. The Marlins promoted him to the Majors and he made his debut on May 30, 2013, at age 31. He wound up playing 94 games that season and batting .256 while playing all four infield positions.

"In my head, I was done," Lucas said. "I'd told my agent not to make any calls on my behalf. It was just due to funky circumstances that I actually decided to play again. I'm thankful for the Marlins giving me an opportunity and talking me into playing again."

How much would Lucas have regretted it if he'd not given himself that one last chance?

"A lot went into it," he said. "I was 30. I hadn't been to the big leagues yet, I was coming off kind of an average season in Triple-A and I'm really, really lucky that I got to experience what I did. That really has always been my dream, to play in the big leagues. I'm ecstatic that it actually ended up happening.

"But at the same time, in my head at that point, I was at peace with not making it. I love baseball and that was my ultimate goal, but I define myself as more than just a baseball player. I was happy with my career, whether or not I'd made it to the big leagues. But, yeah, everything worked out perfectly."

Lucas played another 69 games for Miami in 2014, hitting .251, then bounced to the Rangers last year and hit .316 in a full season at Triple-A Round Rock.

Servais still thinks Lucas will wind up in a front-office position with someone, but not until he's ready to hang up the cleats for good.

"He's a really sharp guy," Servais said. "I had multiple conversations with him about, 'How do I stay in the game? What do I want to do?' He didn't necessarily want to coach, but maybe get in the scouting side or the front-office side. I think eventually he may head that way, but good for him. He's playing as long as he can, and he'll fill a role for us this year. You need lots of guys in Triple-A that can help you out."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.