MINNEAPOLIS – Max St. Pierre's perseverance has paid off. The Detroit Tigers have added an awfully happy backup catcher.
The 30-year-old rookie was brought up to the big leagues on Wednesday after 14 seasons — spanning 978 games — in the minors. His next at-bat — and manager Jim Leyland promised he'd get one — will be his first in the majors.
"I'm still like dreaming, I feel like," St. Pierre said in the visitors' clubhouse at Target Field before Detroit's game against the Twins. He was taken out of Tuesday's game with Triple-A Toledo and told of the long-awaited promotion.
He slept for one hour. That was one flight he didn't want to miss.
Oh, and all those messages on his cell phone?
"Out of control, and I'm enjoying it," St. Pierre said. "I feel important. I'm always feeling important with my friends, but there's so much support behind me."
Asked if he was eager to start using that big league meal per diem, St. Pierre looked as if he'd never considered it.
"It's never been about the money," he said. "It's always been about ... a dream. I want to get there, and I want everybody back home to see: 'Hey, you made it.'"
Back home is Canada, French-speaking Quebec to be exact, where St. Pierre didn't start playing baseball until he was 9 or 10 years old. He said it took him an entire year to make contact. But once he did, when that ball went scooting along the gravel, through the second baseman's legs and past the center fielder for a classic Little League home run, he was hooked.
He became a big fan of Tim Wallach and later Larry Walker of the Montreal Expos, channeling the passion into developing his game enough to get drafted as a 17-year-old in the 26th round by the Tigers in 1997.
His defense is what kept him going, with 11 homers and 54 RBIs for Double-A Erie in 2003 his most productive offensive season. He hit only .236 that year, and his career batting average is .250.
But in the majors, of course, it's still .000.
"Everybody's happy for him. He's going to play at some point. I'll get him in there," Leyland said.
Leyland never made it to the majors after a six-year career in the minors that ended in 1970. It took him until 1986 to become a major league manager, with Pittsburgh. So he knows all about that perseverance stuff.
"If it works for Max like it worked out for me, it'll be all right," Leyland said.
English is St. Pierre's second language, so he had trouble fully communicating with pitchers earlier in his career. He's had plenty of ups and downs with his offense, too, until clicking this season. He batted .300 with five homers and 22 RBIs in 130 at-bats for Toledo.
He said he wasn't about to quit if the call didn't come this year, but he did acknowledge a desire to find another organization next season if he didn't make it this year. He's been in the Tigers' system the entire time, making it to Triple-A for one game in 2002 and then a full season in 2006. Since then, he's been back and forth between Double-A and Triple-A.
The Tigers also recalled right-handed reliever Robbie Weinhardt from Toledo. Weinhardt was 1-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 24 games for the Mud Hens. This is his second call-up of the season. Right-handed reliever Enrique Gonzalez, who was designated for assignment last week, was sent outright to Toledo.