The Sporting Life: CDO grad on minor odyssey - The Explorer: Import

The Sporting Life: CDO grad on minor odyssey

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Posted: Tuesday, September 6, 2005 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:50 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

August 31, 2005 - It was high. It was far. It was long gone.

With one swing of the bat, Colin Porter was on top of the baseball world. It was his shining moment in the major leagues.

"It hit off the speaker there," said Porter about his first and only major league home run, a 2-2 curve ball hit off Expos closer Rocky Biddle in Montreal's Olympic Stadium.

"I lost it after it went up so I didn't know what was going on," Porter continued, "and then I looked and saw the umpire signaling to circle the bases. I still don't remember a whole lot about it."

That was May 7, 2004. In the year since, baseball has sent the former Canyon Del Oro High School standout on a barnstorming tour around the country - one that has landed him back in the place where it all began more than 10 years ago. When Porter, 29, signed with the Tucson Sidewinders on July 26, he officially joined the ninth team of his eight-year career through the minor and major leagues.

This season hasn't exactly been a smooth one for Porter. A trip home to the city where he was a member of the CDO state champion squad in 1994 may be just what the left-handed slugger needs, however.

After hitting .310 with the Yankees in spring training, Porter's bat went cold forcing the Bronx Bombers to eventually release him in July. He signed with the Sidewinders despite talks with the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox.

"It's been a rough one, definitely," said Porter, who was hitting .154 with two doubles and five runs scored in 19 games since joining the Sidewinders.

Despite the difficult campaign, Porter sees the silver lining.

"I guess getting released from the Yankees was kind of a blessing in disguise," he said. "To get to come home and spend the rest of the season with my family and friends, it's nice. Every night, they are here."

While away from home, however, Porter has traveled to some of baseball's holiest grounds, from the ivy of Wrigley Field to the Yankee locker room where he rubbed elbows with the likes of Yogi Berra. He attributes his torrid spring to the hitting instruction he received from Yankee great Don Mattingly.

"I was hanging on every single word he said," said Porter of the former Yankee captain and current hitting coach. "I'd come early every day and try to get in with him. He helped me out quite a bit. I had a great spring and then, I guess, I forgot my bats in Florida."

The bats were alive in major league stints with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004 and the Houston Astros (2003), where Porter is a lifetime .258 career hitter, batting .314 last year for the Red Birds.

Despite his woes at the plate this year, Porter is confident that with hard work he can return to his old form: the same form that got him drafted in the 17th round in the 1998 baseball amateur entry draft by the Houston Astros.

"He's still a fantastic defender and runs the bases real well," said Sidewinder's manager Chip Hale. "It's just a matter of his bat. He needs to show that that bat can still work."

Hale, like Porter, a University of Arizona baseball alum, still detects the 'pop' in the outfielder's bat and has noticed an improvement in his batting practice sessions in the past week.

"Maybe he's figured something out," Hale said.

Even with a strong finish, a return to the Sidewinders in the spring won't be guaranteed. With an outfield of veterans with the Diamondbacks and several prospects fighting for playing time in triple-A, Porter could find himself battling for a job elsewhere when spring training opens in February. Tucson, if not the bigs, is where Porter would like to be, however.

"It's probably going to be tough getting a job with the kind of season I had this year, but we'll see how it goes in the off-season," said Porter, who is looking to catch on with a team in the Mexican League during the winter.

"I'd love to (return to the Sidewinders). That would be great," he said. "I'd get to play at home all season. It's been wonderful playing here this last month."

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