An oft returned to topic on this site is that of the non-linear nature of baseball. There are numerous players who highlight the myriad of ways in which baseball across the board does not fit into the neat little boxes we create for them. A player may meet all the marks of their professional development right on time, or perhaps they blossom earlier than expected. Even more seemingly fall off a cliff, and the gut reaction of most is to write those players off and move on from caring about that player. In the end, if a player fails to make it in Major League Baseball the larger baseball community has very little time for that player.
Evan MacLane never made it in MLB, despite having put up respectable numbers while in affiliated baseball. MacLane offers no excuses for his departure from MLB, sometimes the chips simply don’t fall your way. In MacLane’s case, he performed well enough but wasn’t what big league coaches were looking for out of a pitcher. If MLB and only MLB mattered in baseball then Evan MacLane would be best known as the prospect the New York Mets traded to acquire Shawn Green.
Every single winter MacLane finds himself pitching in San Pedro de Macorís for the Estrellas Orientales of Liga de Béisbol Profesional de la República Dominicana. HIs MLB days are long gone and MacLane is very cognizant of the fact that scouts aren’t showing up to watch him pitch. There will not be another shot at affiliated ball, and even his chances to play in the higher levels of summer unaffiliated ball aren’t as bountiful as in previous years. For some, this may be seen as a roadblock to the advancement of their career, but for MacLane, it’s not even close to a pebble on the road. He enjoys his winters in the Dominican Republic and his summers spent with his family.
When I first got the idea of interviewing MacLane I went into said interview thinking I would focus on his LIDOM dominance. An American pitcher lasting twelve years in the Latin American winter leagues means that the pitcher in question has to be quite good. Spending 12 of those years with the same ball club, the Orientales, makes MacLane an even more interesting study in dominance. The 2019-2020 season finds the 36-year-old MacLane still cruising along. In 49.0 innings he’s garnered an ERA of 3.49 and WHIP of 1.061. Any numbers I may throw at you aren’t even close to the actual story of Evan MacLane.
MacLane’s continued baseball success lies in a man who understands his priorities. The more I talked to Evan the more I became convinced that he is the perfect model of someone who didn’t need the major leagues to reach the top of the mountain in life. No matter the topic at hand inevitably the discussion would circle back to MacLane’s love of his family. Not just his wife and children, but his baseball family. This is evident in everyone who has had any sort of interaction with the California native.
When Estrellas first signed MacLane, Raúl Alejandro was an Assistant General Manager for Estrellas. The way he describes MacLane as a hard-working professional who they signed more because of his ability to compete than to throw the ball speaks volumes to the character of the left-handed hurler. From that ability to compete came a pitcher who proved to be great for the majority of his LIDOM career. Even when he did struggle Alejandro never thought twice about bringing MacLane back the following season. If MacLane couldn’t pitch then he wouldn’t come back, but if he showed up it meant he was going to compete and help Estrellas in their quest to win a LIDOM crown.
Last year the Estrellas finally did win another LIDOM crown. MacLane was an integral part of bringing a title back to San Pedro de Macorís for the first time in 51 years. The Estrellas showed faith in MacLane for far longer than most winter league teams stick with foreign player imports. LIDOM as a whole understands that MacLane is a different breed of import player as he routinely finds himself a regular draft pick by a remaining team after Estrellas has been eliminated from the playoffs. MacLane realizes the sun may be setting on his LIDOM career very soon, but it’s not something that concerns him. Maybe he’ll go into coaching after he throws his final pitch or maybe he’ll stay at home and spend even more time with his family, priorities are priorities after all.
The adage that we are what we make out of our lives is something I have come to strongly adhere to these past few years. Evan MacLane has made the most out of his life, filling it with people who matter the most to him. The path that MacLane followed on his baseball journey is not one that we often equate with success and accomplishment. The fact of the matter is that MacLane is plenty accomplished on the baseball field but he has accomplished even more in seamlessly melding his baseball world with his family life. Not exactly a linear progression for a player, but nothing about Evan MacLane’s career has been traditionally linear.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Unknown