Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor instructed shortstop Jordy Mercer to come into his office to autograph a jersey. Mercer obliged. Treanor then smiled and presented the good news.
“The reason I really called you in here is now is the time,” Treanor said. “You're going up tomorrow.”
That was May 2012. Jordy Mercer, the kid from Taloga, one of seven in his graduating class, was going to the majors. He sat out the first game at PNC Park a year ago but played the second day against the Cincinnati Reds.
“My emotions went crazy,” Mercer said. “My wife, who was pregnant at the time, was with me. To come from a small town like Taloga and experience something like that is something I'll never forget, a dream come true.”
Mercer, 26, played in 42 games with the Pirates last season. He played well enough this spring that Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle said Mercer was worthy of the Pirates' utility spot. Mercer, though, got caught in a numbers game of veterans with guaranteed contracts.
Disappointed but motivated, Mercer returned to Indianapolis. He continued to produce. When Neil Walker went on the disabled list three weeks ago, Mercer was recalled to the majors.
Again, he produced. He went 8-for-31 with three home runs with the Pirates. When Walker returned, Mercer was sent back to Indianapolis. Two days later, utility man John McDonald was sidelined by a back injury.
With McDonald on the DL until the end of the month, Mercer is still with the Pirates in a backup role. But when McDonald returns, Mercer knows he could be sent back to Indianapolis.
Whether he plays in the National League or Triple-A, Mercer has incentive to continue producing. Veteran shortstop Clint Barmes is in the final year of a two-year deal. One of the Pirates' options next year is to give Mercer a shot at the starting shortstop job.
A career .268 hitter in roughly 2,000 minor league at bats, Mercer two years ago slammed 19 homers, splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A.
He was a 26th round pick out of Taloga but was selected in the third round, 79th overall, five years ago out of OSU. Mercer is older than some prospects. But his production the past two seasons has put him on the Pirates' radar.
“I hope the pieces fall into place,” Mercer said. “I've worked hard for it. I just hope to get a shot and make the most of my opportunities.”
Small town success story
Taloga is a farming town of 300 people in northwest Oklahoma located 50 miles north of Weatherford, 100 miles west of Guthrie.
Jordy's father, who graduated from Taloga, is a wheat farmer. He also runs 100 head of cattle. His mother attended Seiling, where he was born.
Mercer's graduating class was five boys and two girls. The school was so small it was consolidated with Arapaho and Butler soon after Mercer graduated.
Towns don't get much smaller than Taloga.
As a teenager, Mercer played summer ball with the Oklahoma Travelers, an All-Star team that won the Elite World Series in 2005. Hitting .432 for a traveling team that played in Texas and surrounding states, Mercer was a pro prospect.
But during the school year Mercer played for Taloga, a Class B school. He played in eight state baseball tournaments, fall and spring.
The Panthers won the 2004 spring state baseball title and were runner-up his senior year when he batted .500.
Mercer also played basketball. Taloga reached state his senior year. Mercer's athleticism stood out. He averaged 22.4 points a game.
“It was a great memory to get to play in the Big House,” Mercer said of State Fair Arena. “I loved basketball. It was good to get away from baseball. I worked hard, spent a lot of time in the gym.”