Gorecki exceeds expectations

ATLANTA - Reid Gorecki was far from guaranteed a spot on the Gwinnett Braves roster in spring training and didn't get much playing time at the start of the season.

"He was in real danger of going back to Double-A," G-Braves manager Dave Brundage said.

"To be honest, that's where I thought I was headed," the outfielder said.

Gorecki didn't have to go down to Mississippi, though. Instead, he went up after turning into one of the Class AAA International League's hottest hitters.

"Everything has been a blessing and a shock," Gorecki said.

In his eighth professional season and just a year after being released in the minors, the one-time reject is a major leaguer at last with the Atlanta Braves.

"That is the best part of being a minor league manager when you can tell a player that he is finally getting his shot," Brundage said.

Brundage got to deliver the good news on Aug. 17 and the 28-year-old made his major league debut just a few hours later as a late-inning defensive replacement against Arizona at Turner Field.

After such an uphill climb, just being on a major league diamond was a thrill. But the really unforgettable memories would be made next.

The New Yorker got his first hit in his second major league at-bat on Aug. 19 and it came against the Mets in front of roughly 100 family members and friends at Citi Field in his native borough of Queens.

Gorecki would have certainly liked to have had his first hit come several years earlier, but it was hard to beat the setting.

"I'd been waiting for a long, long time," the Long Island resident said. "But it turned out great the way things ended up happening. What a thrill. It was breathtaking. I really can't put it in words."

Gorecki, who wasn't on Atlanta's 40-man roster, finally got the call-up because Nate McLouth had to go on the disabled list with a strained hamstring and additional Braves injuries made him the starting center fielder.

"No way I expected that," said Gorecki, who returned to the bench for Tuesday night's series opener against San Diego.

The right-handed hitter was in the lineup for the final game of the Mets series and then started all three games of Atlanta's key weekend series against Florida at Turner Field.

Talk about a change of fortunes. Gorecki was released from his minor league contract by St. Louis when he couldn't make the Class AAA Memphis roster to start the 2008 season and didn't find a job until Atlanta signed him in May to play at Mississippi.

Gorecki hit .292 in Class AA, but he might not have been re-signed by the Braves if former Georgia Tech outfielder Jason Perry hadn't rejected a Class AAA contract offer.

With that as background, it is easy to see how Gorecki's brother Ryan, a former minor leaguer himself, fell for the sudden major leaguer's telephone prank.

Rather than give his good news right away, Gorecki said he had quit baseball to get a real job and needed to be picked up at the airport.

"He got real angry at me," Gorecki said. "He told me I'd made a big mistake. Then I broke the good news. Within minutes, everyone knew."

There was nothing funny about Gorecki's lack of playing time and struggles at the plate early this season with the G-Braves. He was hitting less than .200 a month into the season.

But injuries to other outfielders opened up more opportunities and Gorecki caught fire after moving to the leadoff spot on a regular basis.

Gorecki hit .303 in June, .337 in July and was batting .338 in August when promoted. His average was .342 since the All-Star break, and he had 19 RBIs and 14 extra-base hits in those 29 games.

"It's still hard to believe that everything has changed so much," Gorecki said.

"What a difference."