Bucs add 13-year Minor League veteran to big league roster

33-year-old Maggi could finally make 1st appearance in The Show

April 23rd, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- As he stood in the Pirates’ clubhouse on Sunday morning, Drew Maggi recalled the only other time in his life that he graced the field at PNC Park.

It was 2010, and Maggi had just signed with the Pirates. He was there with his mother, Sarah. Drew remembered his mother asking if he liked the field.

“I said, ‘Mom, this is beautiful,'” Maggi said. “I had a really good feeling inside. I even remember telling her, ‘I can see myself playing here one day.’”

When Maggi spoke those words to his mother, he was a 21-year-old who had just departed Arizona State University, set to play for the Short-Season State College Spikes. Now 33 years young with a lifetime of Minor League experience under his belt, Maggi can say that good feeling was justified.

Prior to Sunday’s game against the Reds, the Pirates selected Maggi’s contract from Double-A Altoona and transferred Bryan Reynolds to the bereavement list. A decade and change after being drafted by the Pirates, Maggi finally has the opportunity to don the black and gold.

“This is where it all started for me,” Maggi said. “This whole year has been a big flashback of my younger self. I’m really happy with how it all turned out. I know that 13 years is really hard. There were a lot of ups and downs, a lot of different people, injuries, a lot of stuff happens. You never know when your days are numbered. So, being here, it feels right.”

To make room for Maggi on the 40-man roster, the Pirates transferred Ji Man Choi to the 60-day injured list.

Maggi, who has logged 4,494 career Minor League plate appearances, has never played in a Major League game, but this isn’t Maggi’s first Major League callup.

On Sept. 18, 2021, the Twins promoted Maggi, a member of the team’s taxi squad in Toronto, after Rob Refsnyder sustained an injury. Following 11 seasons in the Minors, Maggi was a Major Leaguer.

He just never played.

Maggi spent two days on Minnesota’s bench, and on Sept. 20, the Twins optioned Maggi to Triple-A. He became the latest “phantom ballplayer,” someone who has been on a Major League roster but has not played. A year and a half later, Maggi will, once again, have an opportunity to play in his first Major League game.

Maggi was not in the starting lineup against the Reds and didn't make an appearance off the bench as the Pirates picked up their seventh consecutive win with a 2-0 victory. When jokingly asked if he made any demands to get into the lineup, Maggi said he “probably should get it in writing.”

Maggi would love to suit up for his first Major League game for any team, but doing so with the Pirates would have an extra layer of sentimentality.

In 2010, the Pirates selected Maggi in the 15th round of the MLB Draft. He spent his first five seasons with the organization, but after spending three years with Double-A Altoona, he departed from the organization as a Minor League free agent.

Last season, after Maggi had spent time with five other organizations, the Pirates re-acquired Maggi from the Phillies via trade. During Spring Training, Maggi made one compelling bid for the Opening Day roster, hitting .344/.417/.688 with three home runs while playing three different positions.

The Pirates elected to assign Maggi back to Altoona, the team he had played with eight seasons prior. Maggi struggled to begin the season with the Curve, but when a roster spot opened up with Reynolds heading to the bereavement list, the journeyman made the two-hour journey west from Altoona to Pittsburgh.

Maggi couldn’t sleep much last night as he lay on his bed at the Fairmont Hotel, located on the other side of the Allegheny River. He kept looking out toward PNC Park, knowing that come Sunday, he’d have the opportunity to call that stadium his place of work.

“A lot of just sitting in the chair, looking out and being like, ‘Wow. I’m here,’” Maggi said.

"When I told a couple guys yesterday, 'Hey, this is what we're going to do,' the smile on players faces is what says it all," said manager Derek Shelton. "Being able to give him a hug this morning, it was like being able to do something with one of your kids." 

His mom, Sarah, his dad, Craig, and brother, Beau -- “Beautiful,” Maggi joked -- will be in attendance, having made the trip from Arizona. Maggi held himself together pregame, but he acknowledged that the emotion might be uncontainable when he sees his parents.

Maggi’s time with the Pirates may not end up lasting all that long. Reynolds' stay on the bereavement list requires a minimum stay of three games and a maximum stay of seven games, meaning Reynolds could be back by the end of the Pirates' three-game set against the Dodgers. Regardless of how long he's in Pittsburgh, Maggi plans to soak in every minute detail of the experience, hoping that this time around, he finally gets his chance.

“I’m just here to be a small part in the winning mindset that’s going on around here,” Maggi said. “So, if my name is called, I’m ready to go. I’ve been waiting 13 years to see that first pitch. I’ll be ready.”