Eric Gagne was asked why he is still pitching at age 41, and he immediately cut off the question and said, “Yeah big leagues. I don’t think so. I know so. “
“That was the goal. I could still throw in my back yard if I wanted to pitch for fun, but I want to get back to the big leagues.”
Yes, the 2003 National League Cy Young Award winner still has that closer’s mentality, even after last appearing in the majors in 2008 for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Gagne had 161 saves in in eight seasons with the Dodgers and made three All-Star Games in addition to his Cy Young award.
So, after multiple arm surgeries and toiling in the Canadian portion of the Can-Am League the last two seasons, Gagne opened some eyes pitching for his Maple Leaf in the World Baseball Classic. After the tournament, Gagne eyed a minor-league deal with the Dodgers, which didn’t pan out, so he decided to give it a shot in Central Islip.
Gagne played with pitching coach Billy Horn last season with the Ottawa Champions. It was that relationship which brought out to this neck of the woods.
“They start two weeks later. I think this was a better fit,” Gagne said. “The caliber is a little higher and a little more Triple-A-ish. I was ready to pitch and ready to go right now, so this is the best fit.”
Because of its location, Long Island has a history of bringing in bigger names, who are looking to get back to a Major League organization. The most notable recent example is Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill, who pitched at Bethpage Ballpark in 2015, only to sign a $48 million contract this past off-season with Los Angeles.
Hill is probably the exception to the rule, as many past All-Stars passed through the Atlantic League as the last stop in their careers, even playing several seasons here.
But Gagne seems to be different. Because of the WBC, he already gained notoriety and his name is back in the mix. Playing on Long Island will make it easier for teams to send scouts out to see the former Dodgers closer pitch.
With the rash of injuries going on to big league pitchers, you never know. Look at Bartolo Colon, who is still pitching in his mid-40s.
“(Colon) goes out there and gets people out on the major-league level,” he said and again stressed why he signed with the Ducks.
“I think this is great place to be. Great stadium and they play a better brand of baseball,” he said.
“That’s what I want to do. I want to get as close to (affiliated) baseball. I haven’t got a chance to sign yet, and I can sign with anyone. This is the closest I can get.”
And at his age, it’s not a bad place. No matter what happens, Gagne is frankly just happy being around the game.
“I always loved the game,” he said. “And I have always been involved in baseball, be it playing, coaching or owning a bat company. For me to be part of that is something special.”