PHOENIX – Entering the 2023 MLB season, Drew Maggi, a Brophy College Preparatory and Arizona State University alum, was one of over 400 “phantom ballplayers” throughout the history of the sport.
This meant that Maggi spent two days on an MLB roster – in this case the Minnesota Twins in September 2021 – but did not appear in a game before again being optioned back to St. Paul, the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate.
After 11 years of minor league ball and one call-up, Maggi had zero MLB appearances to show for it. This setback meant another shot at the big leagues was far from a sure thing for the Phoenix native and it appeared he may never play in a MLB game.
Maggi continued to persevere, however, and continued working hard even as his number of minor league games climbed to over 1,100 before stopping at 1,155 when, once again, he received the call of his life.
On Sunday, in a now-viral video, the Pittsburgh Pirates chose to make Maggi’s big league dream a reality when they selected his contract from Double-A Altoona. Finally, after 13 minor league baseball seasons, Maggi would get his chance at the show.
It’s been a hell of a journey for Drew Maggi. pic.twitter.com/KPjXxLSj1B
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) April 23, 2023
“Oh, it just gave me goosebumps. He’s just one of those guys. He’s been that way ever since I’ve known him,” said Tim Esmay, who was the ASU coach when Maggi played for the Sun Devils. “He’s just a guy that just would never be told no, and never be told he couldn’t do something. And then to see that. And just to see his reaction, it’s just a genuine reaction.”
In Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the bottom of the eighth inning, Maggi stepped into an MLB batter’s box for the first time at 33 years old. The PNC Park faithful gave the third baseman a standing ovation and chants of “Maggi, Maggi, Maggi,” filled the stadium.
Although he struck out, Maggi realized a lifelong dream of playing baseball at the major league level, and no one will ever be able to take that away from him no matter what the Pirates decide to do with his contract after this moment.
“I saw my dad crying. I don’t think I ever saw him cry before. All those years, I wondered what I would say to my parents if that moment ever were to come. They’ve been right there with me. Hearing those words made it all worthwhile. I know the last 13 years have not been wasted,” Maggi said of his debut, according to ESPN.
Maggi, a Valley native, attended Brophy College Prep for high school and played under legendary coach Tom Succow, who left the Broncos for Yavapai Community College after 42 seasons in 2017.
During his time at Brophy, Succow coached “virtually all of the Maggi brothers” – there were five of them – and was named national high school coach of the year in 2007 by the American Baseball Coaches Association.
That was Drew’s junior season, and first on varsity for a Brophy program that won the state championship the year prior. The Broncos fell just short of repeating as 6A state champions in 2007, losing to Horizon High School, 9-6, in the state title game.
After Drew’s senior season at Brophy, he was selected in the 47th round of the 2008 MLB Draft by the hometown Arizona Diamondbacks. Instead of signing a minor league contract out of high school, Maggi committed to ASU.
“Drew was an outstanding player. He was and he was a very impactful player for us playing third base. And in ‘08 he played second base for us,” Succow said.
Maggi played two seasons at ASU, from 2009-10, playing in 123 games and appearing in two College World Series. He hit .319 with five home runs and 61 RBIs and also showcased speed on the basepaths, stealing 57 bases with 36 of those during the 2010 season.
Even though he was only a Sun Devil for two seasons, Maggi had two different head coaches during his time at the university. During the 2009 season, ASU was led by Pat Murphy, who managed the team to the semifinals of the College World Series. However, he resigned amid multiple allegations in November 2009.
Esmay took over for the 2010 season, inheriting a very talented ASU roster and repeating the success from the prior season, albeit winning one more game and losing four less.
However, the postseason success was not there that year as the Sun Devils were bounced in two games from Omaha despite being the nation’s top overall seed. Despite the postseason disappointment, Maggi was again selected in the MLB Draft, this time by the Pittsburgh Pirates who took him in the 15th round, and this time he would sign to begin his professional career.
Little did Maggi know that this would be the beginning of a long professional career that would go on to expand six organizations, 15 different cities, and hundreds of games played in stadiums with crowds often less than 10,000 people, as is common in minor league baseball.
From Florida to Mexico to West Virginia, Maggi has truly made the rounds on the minor league baseball circuit and has more than paid his dues to earn an opportunity in the big leagues. Even if it is just for the proverbial cup of coffee.
“I’m so proud of Drew and what he’s accomplished,” Succow said. “His inner drive, playing with that chip on his shoulder to prove people wrong. [Since Brophy] Drew’s had that burning desire, otherwise he wouldn’t have stayed in minor league baseball as long as he has.”
Maggi’s passion for the game and ability to play with an edge was a common theme from both his high school and college coach. Considering the thousands of minor league games Maggi has played, his mental toughness is extraordinary.
“Obviously Drew’s story is a little bit tougher and a little bit harder road but you know what? He found a way and he got there and I’m so tremendously proud of him,” Esmay said.
Finally, after being given the opportunity to play in his first MLB game, Maggi’s at-bat against the Dodgers was a culmination of years of hard work and determination. And now we know that for him the 1,155 minor league games will have all been worth it.