Who Will Be 2014's Scott McClain?

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Spring-training phenoms burst on the scene just about every year. Scott McClain's 2004 spring was one of the most memorable.

Every spring, some Cubs hitter has a fantastic five weeks, leading fans (and in the case of Micah Hoffpauir with his six homer, 25-RBI performance in 2009, the manager) to clamor for his inclusion on the 25-man roster.

While Hoffpauir's spring performance was pretty stunning, it came just after he had demolished Triple-A pitching in 2008 (.362/.393/.752 with 25 home runs and 100 RBI in 71 games). Hoffpauir was a bit old at age 29, but some thought he might have a decent major-league future. (He didn't.)

Scott McClain was under no such illusions. After a decent run through the Orioles minor-league organization, he signed with the then-Devil Rays just before their first season, and at age 26 posted a .299/.385/.589 line with 34 homers. That got him a 2-for-20 cuppa coffee -- you'd think he'd have deserved more with a first-year expansion team.

Instead, he went to play in Japan, and was eventually invited to Cubs spring training in 2004, then aged 31. He wasn't likely to get significant playing time with Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez entrenched at first and third base, his two best positions, but he put on a show in spring training, going 16-for-48 with five doubles, six home runs and 16 RBI. One of the homers singlehandedly won a 1-0 game that Greg Maddux started (and that one lasted just an hour and 56 minutes, another spring-training memory).

GM Jim Hendry and manager Dusty Baker nearly kept McClain; he was the last player cut from the 25-man roster. I'd much rather have seen him on the 2004 Cubs than, say, Damian Jackson, Ben Grieve, Rey Ordonez or Jose Macias. Instead of going to Iowa, McClain went back to Japan, played briefly, then was invited again to spring camp in 2005 by the Cubs. That year he did go to Triple-A for the Cubs and hit .291/.358/.577 with 30 home runs and 93 RBI. That got him a September callup in which he went 2-for-14 on a team going nowhere.

McClain does hold one oddball big-league record; when he hit his first big-league home run September 3, 2008 off a guy I am reasonably sure you have never heard of, he became the oldest player (36) to hit his first major-league homer.

He had an interesting career, with 292 minor-league home runs and 89 more in Japan, a real-life Crash Davis. And in 2004, he had a spring camp that almost any big-league player would have been proud of.

There's got to be someone among the 65 players in Cubs camp who will have a spring like that. Who do you think it will be?

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