Pirates celebrate Vogelsong's 10-year mark

Pirates celebrate Vogelsong's 10-year mark

CHICAGO -- The Pirates had just been swept by the Cubs, dealt a 6-5 loss on their way back to Pittsburgh. But before they got dressed and boarded the team bus, they stopped to recognize a milestone reached by one of their own.

Ryan Vogelsong reached 10 full years of Major League service time on Wednesday, a significant accomplishment for any baseball player, much less one who's walked such a winding road.

When a player accrues 10 years of service time, he also becomes fully vested in his pension. To honor the achievement, the Pirates surprised Vogelsong in the cramped visitors' clubhouse at Wrigley Field with a cake, a brief ceremony and a loud round of applause.

"It means a lot," Vogelsong said. "It's a very small number, compared to the number of guys that have played in this league that get to 10. … That was cool of them. This is a great group of guys in here. They understand special moments, and I appreciate them doing it for me."

Vogelsong began his Major League career in San Francisco in 2000 but spent 2001-06 in the Pirates' organization. He struggled through poor performances and injuries and eventually resumed his career in Japan, where he realized he'd never have a moment like Wednesday if he didn't give it another shot in the United States.

"That was one of the things I never thought I would get to, along with being an All-Star and winning a World Series," Vogelsong said.

So Vogelsong pitched in winter ball after the 2010 MLB season, hoping to capture someone's attention. It wound up being the Giants, who gave him a second chance in '11. He made the most of it, becoming an All-Star and winning two World Series.

Then he came back to Pittsburgh this season, hoping to leave a better second impression. He sustained another setback in May, getting hit in the left eye by a fastball and suffering multiple facial fractures.

He feared the injury would ruin his career, if not his eye. Then he worried he would be on the disabled list when his service clock ticked to 10 years.

But he wasn't. Instead, he was on the mound.

"Pretty special day," Vogelsong said. "Obviously dampened by not winning the game, but still a special day for me and my family."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.