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.”
Mercer, who played for Team USA in the Pan American Games in 2007 and 2011, is a middle infielder. He can play second or short. He's even played a little third base.
During his three-year career at Oklahoma State, Mercer hit .303. He slammed 25 career homers with 108 RBIs. He also served as the Cowboys' closer, recording 17 career saves.
“I tell people all the time if I could go back to OSU for one more year I'd do it in a heartbeat,” Mercer said. “I made friends for life. I still talk with Rebel Ridling and Jeff Breedlove, Billy Jones, Greg Evans, coach Frank Anderson and other guys. I'll keep up with them for life. I loved every minute of it.”
Seeking an opportunity
In his first game this season with the Pirates on May 6, Mercer slammed a go-ahead, two-run homer that was the difference in a 3-1 win over the Washington Nationals.
Still, there are no guarantees Mercer will stay in the majors when everyone on the roster is healthy.
“I take it day by day,” Mercer said. “You know there's a business side to it. You don't know what's going to happen in the future. I'm just having fun with it. When I get to play I try to make the most of it.”
When the Pirates had a middle infield opening earlier this month, Josh Harrison was an option. Hurdle made it clear he wanted Mercer.
“From opening day until (the call up) he played better than everybody else there (in Indianapolis),” Hurdle told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
After he hit .333 with 11 walks and a .500 on-base percentage in spring training, Huntington informed Mercer the organization was pleased with his progress ... but he was being sent to Indianapolis.
“We challenged him to continue to carry it forward,” Huntington said. “We also gave him some things that he can continue to work on to be a legitimate option for us at short next year.”
Mercer said it was difficult to hear he was being sent to Triple-A. He responded by hitting .333 with 19 RBIs in 26 games with Indianapolis.
“It was tough,” Mercer said. “I worked hard in the offseason and prepared myself really hard. Obviously I was disappointed. But I knew they wanted me to play shortstop every day. I had a little chip on my shoulder and wanted to go down and make the most of it.”
Mercer now lives in Edmond with his wife, Kasey, a Deer Creek girl he met at OSU. They have a nine-month-old son, Maverick.
A year after making his big league debut, Mercer is playing for an organization attempting to end a 20-year sub.-500 drought.
“The fans love this team. They're hungry,” Mercer said. “They have the Steelers and Penguins who are both really good. But this is a good baseball town, too. They can't wait for the Pirates to win again.”
Hitting .300 with three homers in 50 at bats with Pittsburgh this season, Mercer might have to wait until next season to get a shot at an everyday job in the majors, but if he continues to produce it increases his odds.
“One of my goals this season is to play as consistent as possible,” Mercer said. “Baseball is a game that's hard to do. But I feel I've been playing pretty well which is why I was called back up.”
When he returns to Taloga, Jordy and his parents eat with senior citizens. It doesn't take long to say hi to nearly everyone in a community of 300.
“A lot of the same people are there from back when I was in high school,” Mercer said. “Everyone eats at the same place for lunch. They tell me they watch me all the time. It's a pretty cool feeling, a kid from Taloga playing in the majors.”