By Evan Ren
Killeen Daily Herald
ROUND ROCK The last time Midland right-hander Mike Oquist made the jump to Double-A ball, he was an ecstatic 23-year-old, two years removed from the University of Arkansas.
That was in 1991.
Thirteen years, nine stints in Triple-A, seven Major-League call-ups and five children later, Oquist, now 36, is giving baseball a final shot.
"A lot of people ask 'What is he doing back in Double-A?,'" said Oquist, who last pitched in the majors in 1999 with Oakland. "I even asked myself 'Is this really what I want to be doing at my age?'"
Once the Oakland organization called him during the off-season, however, it didn't take long to answer the question.
Having spent the entire 2003 season at Somerset of the Atlantic Independent League, the chance to return to affiliated baseball for the first time since 2001 was something he couldn't pass up.
The odds of him ever returning to the senior circuit: slim at best.
Yet other opportunities, apparently which the Oakland organization had in mind from the beginning, are now starting surface.
"I knew what was going on when I got here," said Oquist, who is carrying a 1-3 record with a 7.39 ERA in 13 appearances with Midland. "I was told that if it didn't work out, there might be the opportunity to get into coaching."
In a way, he is already fulfilling that role, with the younger Midland players often picking his brain about his experience in the big leagues.
Oquist saw time with three clubs there, including the Baltimore Orioles, who first called him up in 1993. Two more brief stints with Baltimore in 1994 and 1995 were followed by a cup of coffee with the San Diego Padres in 1996.
From there, Oquist went to the Oakland organization, where he threw a career-high 175 2/3 innings in 1998. But following the 1999 season, he never saw action in the majors again, finishing with a 25-12 career record and a 5.46 ERA.
"People look at a guy like Mike who is 36 with five kids and wonder what he's doing here," Midland pitching coach Jim Coffman said. "But prior to the season, the organization told us that this was a guy who would likely move in to coaching, and he's already bringing a lot of that to the club."
For Oquist, however, it is pitching, not coaching, which remains his primary motivation for coming to the Texas League.
The 6-foot-2 190-pounder is still throwing in the mid-80s, as he did while with Oakland, and is still hoping to earn a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento before season's end.
"I spoke to (former Oakland teammate) Tom Candiotti, and he told me just to keep on throwing as long as I could," Oquist said. "He told me to pitch until they rip the ball out of my hands."
Contact Evan Ren at firstname.lastname@example.org