Marcus Thames used to sit on the edge of his bed, wondering if he'd ever work again. He held the phone to his ear day after day, discussing his uncertain future with his agent.
"I didn't have a job," Thames said. "I was just hoping somebody would call me."
"He told me what they had for me and I was like, 'All I want is a shot. That's all I want,' '' said Thames, a Mississippi native who was watching the Saints-Colts game in Miami at the time. "It worked out. I didn't do that good in spring training, but I guess they went off my track record, and 2010's been pretty good. Hopefully, it'll be even more special at the end."
The designated hitter took a step toward making that happen Saturday night when he helped propel the Yankees to a 6-1 victory over Minnesota with a two-run blast - his first career postseason home run - in the fourth inning of Game 3 of the ALDS. It was his first home run to rightfield at the Stadium.
"Wow, you can really go over there?" Derek Jeter kidded.
"Every now and again," Thames answered with a smile.
Thames' baseball career has come full circle. The kid who played just one season of high school baseball wound up being drafted by the Yankees in 1996 in the 30th round. He was traded to Texas for Ruben Sierra in 2003 before eventually ending up in Detroit. He spent six seasons with the Tigers before they released him at the end of last season.
Thames' uncertain future ate away at him. Girardi's call, however, changed everything. "I was excited," said Thames, who was 2-for-4 in Game 3. "I think I was a little bit too pumped up 'cause I didn't do anything in spring training. I'm glad the guys had faith in me and brought me along with the team."
His job was simple: Crush pitches from lefties. And Thames has met those expectations. He batted .300 against lefthanded pitchers during the regular season and actually did pretty well against righthanders, too, picking up seven of his 12 homers and 19 of his 33 RBIs in only 82 at-bats. And Saturday, he became the 10th Yankee since 1981 to hit a home run as his first postseason hit.
"In my first at-bat, I was kind of aggravated a little bit because we had a guy on third base and no outs and I chased a pitch that I shouldn't have and I popped it up," Thames said. "But Sado picked me up. That's what teammates are for. And the next at-bat, I didn't miss my pitch."
Now he has another classic moment to add to his collection. Every offseason, right before he begins working out, Thames replays the image of his first major-league at-bat: a home run off Randy Johnson at Yankee Stadium on the first pitch of the at-bat.
"It lights a fire under me a little bit," he said. "It was a great feeling, but I've got something else on my mind right now."