For the first time in three years, Marcus Nidiffer played in a professional baseball game.
The former Tennessee High and University of Kentucky star made his return on Saturday night, grounding out in his only plate appearance for the High Point Rockers of the independent Atlantic League in their 12-9 loss to the Lexington Legends.
“I’ve been away for a while,” Nidiffer said. “It’s been a good time.”
The 34-year-old Nidiffer last played for the Rockland Boulders of the now-defunct Can-Am League in 2018, his fifth and final season with the club in New York.
He also suited up in the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Angels minor league systems and had a stint with the Traverse City Beach Bums of the independent Frontier League.
Jamie Keefe was Nidiffer’s manager in each of his five seasons in Rockland and now holds the same job for the Rockers. He reached out to his former catcher after a bevy of transactions and injuries left the roster in flux.
“He called me and said they needed a guy for the weekend,” Nidiffer said. “So I just drove up for these three games.”
In a neat moment those games were played in Lexington, Kentucky, the same city in which Nidiffer attended college.
“That was pretty cool,” Nidiffer said. “Absolutely full circle.”
Pinch-hitting for pitcher Joey Hennessey in the seventh inning and facing former big leaguer Robert Carson on Saturday, Nidiffer hit a 2-1 grounder to third baseman D.J. Peterson who threw over to Keon Barnum – who once played for the Bristol White Sox – for the out.
“I was a little nervous,” Nidiffer said. “But it felt good to be back."
Nidiffer started as High Point's designated hitter on Sunday and went 1-for-2 with a walk.
Craig considers Asian opportunities
Pittsburgh Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said in a radio interview on Sunday that first baseman Will Craig is exploring opportunities to play in Asia.
A first-round pick of the Pirates in 2016 and a former standout at Science Hill High School and Wake Forest University, Craig made his MLB debut last summer.
He’s hit .203 with one home run and three RBIs in 20 career big-league games with Pittsburgh, while batting .261 with 59 homers during his time in the minor leagues.
Craig has compiled a .287 batting average with eight homers and 23 RBIs this season for Triple-A Indianapolis.
The Korea Baseball Organization or Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball League could be options for Craig.
Gabe Wurtz: All-Star
Gabe Wurtz earned a spot in Sunday’s Pecos League All-Star Game in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and that came as no surprise.
The former star at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise is hitting .407 with 15 home runs and 59 RBIs for the Tucson Saguaros of the independent league.
Today in History
> Ed Whitson (Unicoi County) pitched a four-hit shutout for the New York Yankees in their 6-0 triumph over the Texas Rangers on July 12, 1985 at Yankee Stadium.
> Houston’s Billy Wagner (Tazewell) struck out all four Pittsburgh batters he faced – Tony Womack, Jermaine Allensworth, Al Martin and Kevin Young – in a game against the Pirates on July 12, 1997.
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