Rancho Cucamonga, California —— There are a lot of things to say about a 28-year-old veteran of ten seasons of pro ball playing in High-A. It’s not ideal, to say the least. It’s a head-scratcher, too; how on earth does a guy this old wind up on a California League roster for anything more than a rehab assignment? For those who see the glass half full, maybe it’s inspiring; what a great story it’d be if he ever reaches The Show.
But for Quincy Latimore, who is that 28-year-old ten-year vet now playing for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, being in High-A and playing in the Cal League is simpler than that. The outfielder had been at Double-A Tulsa earlier this summer, where he was doing well enough before a roster crunch pushed the Los Angeles Dodgers to a decision: release ‘old man’ Latimore, or send him to the Cal League. When High-A became an option, Quincy never balked at the unique demotion.
“You know, the way I look at it is I have an opportunity to play,” Latimore told Baseball Census a few hours before Rancho’s Friday night home game against Inland Empire. “They could have easily sent me home, but they gave me an opportunity to come out here and play. It’s a fresh start. It’s a new team, new coaches, new players, and that’s how I’ve been looking at it. It’s been a journey so far, but I’m still playing.”
If you haven’t guessed it yet, being back in High-A at 28 means that Latimore never quite caught on over the last decade . A fourth round pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007 out of Middle Creek High School in Apex, NC, Latimore’s organizational resumé since then reads like you might expect: six seasons in the Pirates’ organization followed by a year in indy ball, and then stints predominantly at Double-A with the Cleveland Indians, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, and now Los Angeles Dodgers.
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His city history is even more daunting, with Latimore coming ‘home’ to places like State College (PA), Altoona (PA), Bradenton (FL), Akron (OH), Harrisburg (PA), Bowie (MD), Lakeland (FL), and most recently Aguascalientes of the independently-run Triple-A Mexican League. To say the outfielder has been a baseball nomad is an understatement. To say he’s done so while keeping his eyes focused forward? Well, that’s just Quincy Latimore.
“Wherever I am, I just want to go out and play hard, and show people what I’m capable of doing,” Latimore said. “I’ve had some ups and downs in my career. I’ve had some really great seasons and some really bad seasons, and now it’s about being consistent. I’m getting to a point where I know myself, and I finally know what it takes to really be ready, and to really be the best me that I can be.”
He paused and smiled.
“Man, I know that if I’m playing, and I get hot at the right time with a team, I still have a shot to make it to the big leagues,” he added. “As long as I’m playing, I’ve still got a shot.”
As commendable as that may be, Quincy Latimore is not where he ought to be. His time in Rancho is temporary, and being here is better than being a 28-year-old minor league free agent, but the outfielder is too good for this level. Through his first 11 games with Rancho Cucamonga entering Tuesday, he’s slashing a gaudy .486/.609/1.057/1.666 over 35 at-bats with five homers, five doubles, and ten walks. With nowhere else in the organization to play right now, Latimore is proving to the Los Angeles Dodgers that he’s the consummate good teammate—the helpful veteran—as the Cal League playoffs loom next week.
“Any time you’re winning, it’s always fun, but the chance to win it all is definitely special,” Latimore noted about the coming playoff schedule. “I had a chance to do it in 2015 [with Double-A Bowie in the Eastern League], and it’s something I’ll never forget, so if we get a chance to do it again, man, that’d be great. A lot of these guys, it’s their first or second year. To win this early, this is really hard to do. This is really special. A win would be a good time.”
But beyond the specific goals and duties of the season, there’s a larger current at play. Latimore is something of an informal player-coach, tasked with mentoring teammates seven and eight years younger. It’s a role he relishes—in part because he’s already thinking about coaching after his career ends—because this is the baseball circle of life. Come up as a young player learning from the veterans, and if you’re lucky enough you play long enough to become a veteran yourself, you get to teach the next generation with the perspective gained from your years.
“Once upon a time I used to be the younger kid, and I had so many guys helping me when I was first coming up,” he said. “I call these guys the new age. Not that I’m old school, but from 2007 to 2017, a lot has really changed. Look at how the game has changed. You can’t take a guy out at second base any more. You could in my first five or six years. It was preached to break that double play up, and you can’t do that any more. My first five, six years, you could take the catcher out. Now it’s pretty much just ‘you have to slide into the plate.’ A lot has changed.”
With free agency ahead at the end of the summer, and set to turn 29 in February — young in life, but starting to creep up there in baseball years — maybe these next two weeks will be the final blaze of glory for Quincy Latimore.
Or maybe he’ll play another decade. Maybe in a year or two you’ll turn on the TV and see the outfielder stepping to the plate for his first big league at-bat with the Los Angeles Dodgers or some other team, the remarkable conclusion to more than a decade of grinding it out every day in the anonymous small towns of Minor League, USA. If it happens — if he ever makes it to The Show — it’d be a testament to his perseverance, and commitment, and faith, and focus. But even if he never gets there, Quincy Latimore has still proven himself in a very, very unforgiving world.
“I still keep in contact with a few of the veterans from when I first started,” Latimore said. “They tell me all the time, ‘we’re proud of you, Q, hang in there man. Keep doing it as long as you can because when it’s over, it’s over.’ A lot of people don’t play this long. They’re tired of playing in the minors and they quit. Some are released and do the independent ball thing but never get picked back up. So I look at it as a blessing to still have a uniform.”
Quincy Latimore looked around again, out across LoanMart Field a few hours before he would end up hitting two home runs and tying a team record with eight RBI against Inland Empire later that night.
“I love what I do,” he summed up. “It beats a real job any day.”
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