Returning to baseball with new inspiration

Outfielder Michael Restovich was 22 and playing in the Arizona Fall League as a top Twins prospect in October 2001. The whole baseball world seemed to be in front of him.

Outfielder Michael Restovich was 22 and playing in the Arizona Fall League as a top Twins prospect in October 2001. The whole baseball world seemed to be in front of him.

On the eve of the '01 World Series opener in Phoenix, the team called Grand Canyon -- including a half-dozen Twins -- was playing a fall league game in nearby Scottsdale Stadium. Restovich caught a pitch on the fat part of the bat and sent the baseball soaring into a star-filled night.

There was robust applause from a small group from Rochester, Minn.: Michael's parents, George and Helen; and his two sisters.

Restovich spent the next three seasons playing primarily for the Twins' Class AAA farm club. His manager was Phil Roof.

In the spring of 2005, Roof was on leave from his team as his wife, Marie, underwent a failed, last-ditch attempt at the Mayo Clinic to control her cancer.


Michael was gone from the Twins' organization, but, in response to the Roofs' situation, George Restovich's daughter Anna, a lawyer in her father's firm, moved out of her home and in with her parents. That allowed Phil, Marie and Tommy, Marie's younger brother with Down syndrome, to use her place.

"My parents, my sisters and my brother are great people," Michael said at the time. "I'm a lucky man."

George Restovich also was dealing with cancer, and it claimed his life in October.

In mid-September, Michael, his wife, Erica, and their young daughter Allison returned from Japan to spend time with George. That was the end of an unfulfilling one-season stay with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

Restovich batted .223 with three home runs and 17 RBI in only 112 at-bats for the Hawks. He was assigned three times to the minors by manager Sadaharu Oh for what that league calls "readjustment."

So much for Japan.

Michael now lives in St. Louis, Erica's hometown. Michael met her in November 1998 at brother George Jr.'s wedding.

Restovich turned 30 in January. He signed recently with the Chicago White Sox -- a minor league contract that comes with a veteran's invitation to big-league spring training.


He is a rock of a man at 6-4 and 250 pounds. He can run and cover ground in the outfield. If he were sitting on a fastball, Michael would hit it hard. But a half-decent breaking ball seemed to be another matter.

Restovich had 103 at-bats in short stays with the Twins from 2002 through 2004. He spent time with Colorado and Pittsburgh in 2005, with the Chicago Cubs in 2006 and with Washington in 2007.

Add it up and he has 268 big-league at-bats, with six home runs, 21 RBI and a .239 average.

"Michael was one of those big guys who was not going to succeed in the big leagues unless there was a team willing to give him 450 at-bats," said Jim Rantz, the Twins' farm director. "He's not a bench player. He doesn't have that kind of swing."

Restovich said he chose the White Sox among several options based on what a baseball vagabond always is seeking: opportunity.

"It's a situation that looks as though, if I had a good spring, I might have a chance to make the team," he said. "More important, if that doesn't happen, there's going to be a chance to play every day in [Class AAA] Charlotte.

"I'm trying not to look too far ahead. If we get to the end of the season, and the production isn't there, we'll have a decision to make. But I think it's going to be a good year.

"Coming back to the States -- and also playing for my father -- is an inspiration I haven't had before."

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