ST. LOUIS -- A couple of decades since a shoulder injury in
high school sank his pitching career, Mark Skorlich always wondered
what it'd be like to play professionally.
The 41-year-old Californian doesn't have to dream any longer.
By shelling out $9,050, the father-to-be owner of an online
seller of T-shirts, sweatshirts and polos won the chance to say he
played in the minor leagues, even if just for an inning.
Skorlich emerged victorious Sunday night in a several-day online
sale by the River City Rascals, buying a "one-day professional
contract" entitling him to a half inning in the outfield and an
at-bat for the suburban St. Louis team during a Frontier League
preseason game May 20.
"I don't have any delusions of grandeur," the Santa Monica,
Calif., man said Monday by telephone from his 3-year-old
www.cheapestees.com. "I'm not there to make a circus of it. I
think I'll be all right. I'm not going to try anything crazy."
Skorlich looks forward to being tested by a professional
pitcher's steaming fastball or looping curveball in the same way he
once batted for a small Catholic high school in the Los Angeles
harbor community of San Pedro.
Back then, Skorlich says, he dreamed of pitching in college and
beyond. By his account, he was able to hurl a fastball 90 mph
before a shoulder injury derailed things. He tried a few comebacks,
including in college, "but the shoulder couldn't take it
Skorlich scored a degree in advertising from San Jose State,
eventually going on to pitch T-shirts instead of fastballs.
One night last week, a half-asleep Skorlich heard a blurb on
ESPN's SportsCenter about a minor-league team offering a chance to
play an inning and bat once, with proceeds of the eBay auction
going to the United Way.
The next morning, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound businessman pulled up
eBay's Web site and typed in the few things he could recall about
the ESPN segment -- "Rascals" and "bid." When the Rascals'
listing came up, Skorlich bit.
"I really entered it strictly because of baseball," he said.
"It was a good marriage of fun and charity."
In winning the auction, Skorlich gets 20 tickets to the game in
O'Fallon against the Gateway Grizzlies of Sauget, Ill., though his
wife may not make the trip. She's due June 20 to deliver the
couple's first child, a girl.
If the game is rained out, the winner will play with the Rascals
when they again face the Grizzlies on May 21 at GMC Stadium in