When Reid Gorecki began his quest to make it to baseball's major leagues this year, he probably didn't expect things to end up in Camden, N.J. The city is the home of Campbell's Soup — and Campbell 's Field, where the Camden Riversharks play their games.
And that's where Gorecki now plays, after being traded by the Long Island Ducks. Tuesday night's game was supposed to be one of the last of his season. But the game was canceled owing to rain, and the stadium was quiet.
Gorecki sent me a text saying that he was in nearby Glassboro, where he and other players met up at a former teammate's house. Happy to have a night off, they sprawled on a huge leather couch to watch a ballgame.
Since he had just joined the Camden team, Gorecki didn't know these guys much better than we did.
Asked what it's like to welcome a new guy into the clubhouse, a teammate answers, "Usually it's pretty easy. With Reid it's a little tougher, because he's from New York — kind of a brassy individual, you know what I mean?"
And Gorecki is kind of brassy. He's 6 foot 1 and has the cool confidence of a guy you'd want playing the ballplayer in your baseball movie.
But even the toughest athlete can fall victim to the realities of the business. And a few weeks ago, the Long Island Ducks traded him to Camden for a pitcher. The Ducks not only play near where Reid grew up — they're headed to the playoffs this year in baseball's independent Atlantic League. Reid's new team, Camden, is not.
"I was shocked a little bit," he says of the trade. "I was a little upset — hometown kid. But I guess they felt my value was better to help their team with a solid arm. I got the short stick in the draw, and that's how it goes."
Three years ago, it was going well. That's when Gorecki got his first major league hit, with the Atlanta Braves. But his time in the big leagues was short. This year, Gorecki, 31, decided to give baseball another try. His parents have been putting some pressure on him.
"They're starting to push me in directions," he says. "You know, maybe going into sales. My father wants me to get into selling cars ... you know, Kia."
But Gorecki doesn't see himself at a Kia dealership just yet. He still feels at home on the ball field.
When we met in April, he said that he would "give it one last shot, see what the kid's got."
Now, he says, "The course of the season showed me the roller coaster effect of emotions again," with the ups and downs of trying to be consistent at the plate.
"But at the end of the season I look back, and I thought the season was pretty awesome," Gorecki says. "I'm ready to give it another shot next year. I kind of want to play winter ball. I got the itch back."
In the spring, he talked of possibly becoming a firefighter. But he says that hitting his first home run this season helped him change his mind about that.
Even at the minor league level, baseball is a grind. When asked what makes the long season worth it, Gorecki says, "Going 3 for 4 with a couple RBIs, couple stolen bases; the feel of contact, solid contact; there's not much better feeling. It drives you to the next at-bat."
And then, he says, "You play to step into the batter's box — and have a pitcher scared to throw you a fastball."
"Baseball makes me happy," he adds. "So I'm going to continue to do that, until I can't."
Gorecki wraps up his season this weekend against his old team, the Long Island Ducks. He'll see his friends on the field getting ready for the playoffs. His Camden team's season will be over. Reid says he'll start thinking about how to make money in the offseason. He'll also be thinking about his future, and how long baseball will be a part of it.
Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.