TORONTO — Drew Maggi was pretty sure he had blown the biggest chance of his life. That somehow he had broken one of Canada and MLB's numerous COVID-19 protocols, that he was about to be deported from the country and banished from the game, that his 11 years of anonymous and thankless toil for a dozen different minor-league teams was going to end in disgrace.
"At this point, I'm panicking," the utility infielder and outfielder said of his Saturday morning meeting in Rocco Baldelli's office with the Twins manager and coach Tommy Watkins, both deadpan in their gravity. Where were you last night? they demanded. The hotel bar? Well, how late did you stay?
Finally, his tormentors could maintain the charade no longer. "Well, that's what you should have been doing!" Baldelli blurted. "Congrats! You're a big leaguer!"
And that's the moment Drew Maggi's day, and life, changed.
"It means everything to me. Just 11 years of hard work and a lot of ups and downs through my personal life and baseball," said Maggi, activated when Rob Refsnyder went on the injured list because of a right elbow injury. "It's crazy. I've been crying all day. It's crazy to think about."
But it's real, finally. Maggi, drafted by his hometown Diamondbacks in 2008 and the Pirates in 2010, rose quickly through Pittsburgh's system, arriving at Class AA in 2012. And that's where he stayed, in Altoona, Pa., about a 20-minute drive yet a million miles from the big leagues, for three years. He switched organizations, wound up with the Angels, but they didn't move him any higher. He found work with the Dodgers, Indians and in 2019, the Twins, piling up four more years in Class AAA, and one in the mind-numbing do-nothingness of the team's alternate site during the 2020 pandemic season.
"I remember thinking I was done in Altoona in like, 2014. I thought my career was over 20 times, and something would always happen. [Even] something small, like my mom texting me to keep going," Maggi said. "You'd think they would tell me to get a real job, but my parents are unbelievable. They always kept me going, they always believed. I would have given it up a long time ago if it wasn't for my parents, no question."
Which made that first phone call home on Saturday morning a moment they will relive forever. Maggi called his father in Phoenix with the news — and got no reaction.
"The phone was silent. I was like, 'Did I lose him? Dad?' And he didn't respond," Maggi said. "He was breaking down. My mom was right there, and she started yelling, and I started yelling."
He did plenty more shouting, calling each of his five brothers. Then he started notifying friends. And before long, the texts and phone calls had turned into a tsunami of joy and jubilation.
"I heard from everybody. I heard from old teammates I haven't talked to in years," Maggi said. He received more than 100 texts and calls as word spread, answered some before batting practice, some after a hitters' meeting, some between interviews. "My mom's called me like 1,500 times."
Probably wishing she could get to Canada. But Maggi said his father and a brother or two don't have passports, making it unlikely they will see his debut, should it come Sunday. But the Twins head next to Chicago's Wrigley Field. Surely he'll see them there, right? "Hey, I'm just taking everything day by day," he said with a laugh.
He wore his No. 89 jersey in the Twins dugout, watching his first game as a member of the Twins and hoping he might get a chance to play. He's a decent hitter with lots of versatility — a .259 career average, 199 strikeouts, and 45 career homers, including 16 this season for Class AAA St. Paul, as he tries to increase his power in order to get noticed. He can credibly play a corner outfield spot or anywhere in the infield.
But that's not why he's here.
"I've been a grinder. I've always [been] motivated, to help teammates and other players. I just think I bring that to the game, too. A lot of that has kept me around," he said. "I'm just going to keep living and whatever happens, happens. I'm just glad I can say that I was a big-leaguer. It feels really good."