MINNEAPOLIS—Numbers don’t lie, and neither does performance. Shortstop Chris Cates hopes his numbers will prove he belongs in professional baseball, but not the number that represents his height.
Cates stands 5-foot-3, which makes the former Louisville player the smallest player in the pro ranks. But he knows that how he performs—not his size—will be the most important factor in his career.
“A lot of people have looked past me because of my height,” said the native of Brandon, Fla., who was taken in the 38th round last June. “I put my pants on the same way everybody else does. That’s how I look at it.”
The Twins are certainly willing to give Cates, 23, a chance to prove himself. “He’s a shortstop who played for a major college and in the College World Series,” farm director Jim Rantz said.
“I guess it’s wrong to say he has to do the little things, but that’s what he has to do to survive. He’s just a gamer—he works hard and he wants to play.”
It’s no surprise that fans, especially on the college level, liked to give Cates a hard time about his stature. He likes to use the ribbing as motivation.
“It really excites me,” he said. “I’ve heard lots of things. A couple of things I heard were, ‘Mow the grass so the shortstop can see’ and ‘Get the helmet out of the batter’s box’ and ‘Do you shop at the Baby Gap?’
“I’d go make a good play and then look right at them and smile. That really gets to them.”
Cates, who began the 2008 season with low Class A Beloit, batted .202/.262/.225 in 129 at-bats with the Snappers after being drafted last year. His older brother Gary is a 5-foot-7 second baseman, most recently of the Rockies.
“They said I would be a late draft pick and there wouldn’t be much money in it,” Chris Cates said. “It didn’t matter to me because I love to play the game, and playing pro ball is better than going out and getting a real job.”
• On the opposite end of the height spectrum, Dutch righthander Loek Van Mil, who stands 7-foot-1, also was assigned to Beloit.
• Outfielder Garrett Jones made his fourth consecutive Opening Day start at Triple-A Rochester. He batted .280/.334/.473 there in 2007.