The Heroes of Spring Training Past

There are no two words that melt the icy grip of winter faster than “Spring Training”. Every February and March, players and fans seemingly emerge from their hibernation and fall back in love with the sport they adore.

This time of the year is also when Spring Training heroes are born. For most however, that’s where they remain heroes: Spring Training.

It’s already begun for the Toronto Blue Jays as relative unknown Lance Zawadski has made a name for himself just over one week into Spring Training. It wasn’t even the end of the first game before people were scouring Lance Zawadski’s Baseball Reference page in record numbers.


Unfortunately, Zawadski’s time in the spotlight is likely to be short-lived, as Spring Training is the birthplace of many players that fail to see the Major Leagues ever again. For every Jose Bautista, there’s a Jason Lane. For every Ricky Romero, there’s a Victor Zambrano.

That’s why it’s so difficult to take Spring Training statistics seriously, because after all … it’s just exhibition. The win/loss records and even the score are almost completely irrelevant. Things don’t really start to count until Opening Day on April 2nd.

So as not to get all wrapped up in Spring Training statistics, here are some of the ghosts of Blue Jays Spring Training past.

Their time with the Blue Jays organization may be far from over, but for some odd reason, the impression they made in Spring Training will last forever.

Gabe Gross (2005)

ST Stats: hit .392, 8 HR, 19 RBI

Where is he now? Gabe Gross is the quintessential Spring Training Cinderella story; he looked like Albert Pujols in February and March, only to return back to the regularly scheduled pumpkin when the proverbial clock struck midnight.

Gross tied the Blue Jays Spring Training record by swatting eight home runs the entire Grapefruit League schedule. He then hit just four home runs the next two seasons with the Blue Jays.


Eric Thames (2012)

ST Stats: .359/.408/.578, 2 HR, 13 RBI

Where is he now? The man known as “Chocolate Thunder” who once captured the hearts of many Blue Jays fans is now with the Seattle Mariners.

Thames was swapped for Steve Delabar last July, and Thames is currently fighting for one of the fourth outfield spots on the Mariners. Due to his interesting facial hair choices, I’ll always have a soft spot for Eric Thames in the depth chart of my heart.

Jason Lane (2009)


ST Stats: .358/.375/.736, 5 HR, 12 RBI in 53 AB

Where is he now? Although he was the darling of Blue Jays Spring Training in 2009, Lane failed to crack to crack the roster and spent the season in Las Vegas.

Most recently, Lane signed a contract with the Sugar Land Skeeters … the very same team which Roger Clemens made his short stint for last season.

Jason Lane converted himself back to a pitcher in 2012 and actually ended up the Skeeters team MVP going 9-5 with a 3.17 ERA in 17 starts. Lane signed a minor league deal with the Minnesota Twins in December, but will have to fight it out in the minors as he didn’t receive an invite to Twins training camp.

Brad Emaus (2009)

ST Stats: .306/.370/.694, 4 HR, 13 RBI in 49 AB

Where is he now? I remember a time when some pundits thought Emaus might one day be the Blue Jays everyday starting second baseman. Obviously, that never come to fruition.

Brad Emaus spent last year in Triple A Buffalo for the New York Mets affiliate, and now will likely be banished to the desert as the Mets take over the Blue Jays old affiliate in Las Vegas, the 51’s.

Via Flickr

Buck Coats (2008)

ST Stats: .343/.395/.543, 2 HR, 5 RBI in 35 AB

Where is he now? While he has a name that lends itself to delivering pizzas or helping estranged women with their pool, he last played in 2011 with the Washington Nationals Double A squad.

Coats tallied just 8 big league games under his belt with the Blue Jays in 2008 and has yet to see any further action in the big leagues since then.

Russ Adams (2006)

ST Stats: .328/.359/.525, 2 HR, 10 RBI in 61 AB

Where is he now? It still amazes me how far Russ Adams’ stock fell so quickly. One minute, he was a first round draft pick and the apparent shortstop of the future for the Blue Jays. The next minute he was designated for assignment.

Adams bounced around through the Padres and Mets organization, and retired from baseball as of May 5th 2011. The man who drafted Adams in the first place, J.P. Ricciardi decided to give him a second go in New York, but with lackluster results.

Victor Zambrano (2007)

ST Stats: 1-1, 2.91 ERA in 19.2 IP

Where is he now? Along with Tomo Ohka and John Thompson, Victor Zambrano was brought in as a stopgap in the Blue Jays rotation to start off the 2007 season. The experiment didn’t fare very well as Victor only made two big league starts in a Blue Jays uniform before being released.

Victor Zambrano retired briefly in 2009, but then returned to the Mexican League for the Sultanes de Monterrey and Dordados de Chihuahua. Zambrano has not pitched at any level since 2010.

Tomo Ohka (2007)

ST Stats: 1-1, 2.84 ERA in 18 IP

Where is he now? As the second head in the Blue Jays three-headed starting rotation monster, Tomo Ohka not surprisingly floundered in a Blue Jays uniform.

After being released in June, Ohka was then signed by the Cardinals and then the Mariners. In total, Tomo Ohka played for three organizations in 2007.

David Purcey (2009)

ST Stats: 0-0, 1.54 ERA in 23.1 IP

Where is he now? Like many promising young left-handers, David Purcey’s fall from grace came pretty quickly. Once the third starter in the starting rotation, the Blue Jays then converted Purcey into a reliever.

Shortly thereafter in 2011, the Blue Jays DFA’d David Purcey and then traded him to the Oakland Athletics. Purcey is currently in the Chicago White Sox camp and has made two appearances in Spring Training.

Dana Eveland (2010)

ST Stats: 0-1, 1.80 ERA in 25 IP

Where is he now? Since being traded by the Blue Jays in 2010, Dana Eveland has amassed 22 starts over the past 2.5 seasons. Most notably, Eveland filled in as a spot starter for the Orioles in the first half of 2012.

Dana Eveland is now playing in Korea for the Kanwah Eagles for the Korea Baseball Organization, where former Blue Jay Scott Richmond is also playing with the Lotte Giants.

Jo-Jo Reyes (2011)

ST Stats: 1-1, 3.52 ERA in 23 IP

Where is he now? We all remember Jo-Jo Reyes 28 game winless streak … and it must have been an enormous weight lifted off his shoulders when he finally picked up his first win in nearly three years after tossing a complete game victory.

Reyes signed with the LA Angels in late 2012, but they granted him his release so he could play with the SK Wyverns with Korea Professional Baseball.

Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

7 thoughts on “The Heroes of Spring Training Past

  • March 5, 2013 at 2:59 am

    That picture of Buck Coats looks remarkably like J.P. Arencibia. Just saying.

  • March 5, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Victor Zambrano was the worst pitcher I can ever remember as a Blue Jay. His regular season performance was just atrocious.

    I do miss Russ Adams though.

    • March 5, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      Remember Russ Adams' grand slam off Papelbon? He became an instant hero the second that happened.

  • March 5, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Don't remember that, but this was a fun post Ian. Just goes to show the spring don't mean nothin'.

    • March 6, 2013 at 3:51 pm

      Exactly … always take what happens in February and March with a grain of salt!

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