This is a 2012 photo of Jason Bulger of the Minnesota Twins baseball team. This image reflects the Twins active roster as of Monday, Feb. 27, 2012, when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
What we all want for our Gwinnett baseball stars is a utopian path, the one taken by Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann, a Duluth grad who is not just a regular major-leaguer, but a perennial all-star.
Unfortunately, it works out that way for just a few.
Parkview grad Jeff Francoeur is an everyday player. Jeff Keppinger (Parkview) and Nick Green (Duluth) have carved out long careers journeying from team to team. A large group of other locals have chased that MLB dream and a few have made it to the big show, while countless others have fallen short at some stage of the minor leagues.
Of the many who leave high school and college each year with that same dream, the numbers are daunting. There are 30 major league teams and 25 players on the active roster, so only 750 players hold down a real spot at any given time. A great percentage of those are international players.
With those numbers in mind, it shows just how hard it is to not only reach the major leagues, but to stay there.
Jason Bulger was one of those guys who made it to the bigs, which made this week's news that the Minnesota Twins had released the Brookwood grad hard to hear. Of all the nice guys who have reached the majors from Gwinnett, Bulger may have been the nicest. His rise to that level also was one of the most improbable.
He was more established as a hitter -- he hit .344 with 22 home runs and 136 RBIs at Valdosta State -- during much of his baseball career. While at Valdosta, he showed off a power pitching arm in his brief college outings and had 86 strikeouts in 69 innings. Most importantly, he had velocity and an arm that hadn't been worked heavily in pitching over the years.
The upside made him a first-round selection of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. He's one of four Gulf South Conference players to ever be a first-round choice.
Injuries plagued Bulger throughout his pro career, but he fought through them to pitch in 125 games from 2005 to 2011. He had highlights along the way, including a 2009 that saw him go 6-1 with a 3.56 ERA and pitch in the playoffs.
He pitched in 286 more minor-league games and it's where he was destined this season until the Twins' released him. If he wasn't in the majors, we were at least looking forward to him making a minor league visit to play the Gwinnett Braves later this season. Now our hopes are that another franchise gives him a chance this season.
At 33, Bulger won't ever be a Brian McCann. But it would be nice to see him reach the majors one more time.
Will Hammock can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock. For Hammock's blog, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willsworld.