By J.P. Antonacci
Canadian Baseball Network
The 25th man on a major league roster is often a versatile veteran or a promising youngster. There are several players of each type vying to head north from Lakeland, Fla., with the Detroit Tigers, and Canadian-American outfielder Jim Adduci is doing everything he can to make sure he gets the call.
“I’ve had some good at-bats, I’ve had some bad at-bats, but the consistency’s been there with the opportunities that I’ve been given. That’s all I can ask for,” Adduci told Canadian Baseball Network after Monday’s game against the Orioles.
Heading into that game, during which he struck out in his only plate appearance, Adduci was batting .333 (10 for 30) with a pair of home runs. Manager Ron Gardenhire has been testing the 32-year-old at first base and told CBS Sports that he liked what he saw.
“I think he can play anywhere,” Gardenhire said. “I think that guy can hit. I really like his swing. So the more places you can be efficient at, it’s always good.”
The Florida Marlins made Adduci a 42nd round draft pick in 2003, and he bounced around the minors before making his MLB debut with the Texas Rangers on Sept. 1, 2013. But his career really took off after he moved to Korea’s KBO League in 2015 to suit up for the Lotte Giants.
“Going over there, you’re the only international position player on the team, so expectations from the team are really high,” Adduci recalled.
“I guess you could say I felt kind of like Miguel Cabrera. You had to be that guy. I learned a lot of lessons over there, kinda being put in the role of being the guy who has to have the big hits and have the big games almost every night.”
Adduci hit over .300 during his two seasons in Korea, enjoying an uptick in his power numbers.
“It made me believe in myself even more,” he said. “I took that challenge on and I had success in it, and I believed it would help me if I were able to get an opportunity back here in the States.”
That opportunity came in early 2017 when Adduci signed a minor-league contract with the Tigers. He was hitting .349 for the triple-A Toledo Mud Hens when Detroit called him up to replace injured outfielder JaCoby Jones in April. He played in 29 games with the Tigers and was invited to spring training again this year.
Having been “the guy” in Korea and then successfully working his way back to the majors, Adduci said his increased confidence has helped him in his quest to break camp with the Tigers.
“Absolutely. I think that’s the biggest thing,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re playing anywhere in the world – if you’re playing the game, you have to believe in yourself. That’s definitely carried over into the States. It also helps that I’m older and have been able to deal with a lot of experiences.”
Adduci inherited his love of the game from his father, also named Jim Adduci, who appeared in 70 major league games over six years, including half a season in Japan.
“We go back and forth and we like to argue about hitting and stuff like that,” Adduci said with a smile. “It’s pretty much our common bond – we’re always talking about baseball. It’s a great bond to have.”
It’s also thanks to his father that Adduci is a dual citizen. Jim Jr. was born in Burnaby, BC, while his dad was playing for the 1985 Vancouver Canadians, which was then a Milwaukee Brewers farm team. With the Canadians under manager Tom Trebelhorn with future major leaguers like position players Mark Brouhard, Juan Castillo, Bobby Clark, Mike Felder, Brian Giles, Dave Huppert, Tim Ireland, Dion James, Doug Loman, Mike Martin, Jamie Nelson, Jim Paciorek, Carlos Ponce, Randy Ready, Ernie Riles, Bob Skube and Dale Sveum.
The pitching staff at one time or another -- which went 79-64 to tie for first place -- included Tom Candiotti, Bryan Clutterbuck, Jaime Cocanower, Chuck Crim, John Henry Johnson, Jim Kern, Pete Ladd, Tim Leary, Brad Lesley, Juan Nieves, Ray Searage, Rick Waits and Bill Wegman.
Adduci spent the first few months of his life in Canada before his family moved to Illinois. He hasn’t yet been back north of the border, but he remains proud of his Canadian heritage.
“Canadian people are so prideful, and just to be a part of it is awesome for me. I enjoy when people are like, hey, I’m Canadian, and I say, yeah, so am I! It’s definitely something that I’m honoured to have,” said Adduci, whose birthplace earned him the nickname “El Canadian” while playing winter ball in Mexico.
Adduci said there had been talk of playing for Team Canada earlier in his career, but nothing came of it. He wouldn’t be opposed to wearing the maple leaf in the future, however.
“It’s something I’ve always been interested in,” he said.
If the Tigers look elsewhere for the last spot on their roster, Adduci will likely start the season as organizational depth in Toledo. After a lifetime spent chasing the dream up and down the minor-league ladder, as well as stints in Korea, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, it’s the love of the game keeps him coming back.
“There’s no better feeling than playing a game, being in the box against the pitcher, and playing the strategy. I just love being in the clubhouse, playing with different guys, playing all over the world,” Adduci said.
“It’s something that I guess I’ve grown up in with my father. It’s all I’ve ever known, and basically I’m going to do it until they kick me out.”