I never take anything for granted, including my job. You're always going to prove some people right and you're always going to prove some people wrong. That's true no matter what you do in life. Even today, I try and take the approach that I'm trying to make the team. That's where I get my edge. Putting pressure on myself keeps me sharp.
Whatever success I've had in my career has been the result of a combination of working hard and staying ready. I was given the chance to play and I did something with that chance. That's helped me out quite a bit the last couple of years with the Royals.
I came up originally with the Pirates, and though I played parts of five seasons with Pittsburgh, I don't think I was really given much of a chance there. I would get called up and serve as the fifth outfielder. I would play every now and again, but that was as far as it went. When I would get called up from the Minors, I would sit around and play some defense or pinch-run.
After playing parts of six seasons (split between the Pirates and the Padres from 1997 to 2001), I didn't play in the big leagues for the next three seasons. At one point, I played in the Mexican League. I didn't get caught up in where I was because I needed to focus on the present. I tried to keep things in perspective because I knew that anything could happen at any time.
Mexico wasn't exactly where I wanted to be, but when I was there, I made the most of it. I also got to play every day and I got to keep myself in shape. It was something I had to do. I didn't want to slip to Independent baseball. I was really down south, but I enjoyed myself because I was playing baseball.
When I got here in 2005, Tony Pena and a couple of the coaches who were here at the time really believed in my abilities. They wanted to see if I could put it together, so to speak. They just gave me a chance.
When things aren't going your way, you try and stay positive. When a chance doesn't manifest itself right there in front of you, I would tell myself that I didn't want my career to end like that. I knew that I was still healthy and I was still young and I knew I had a ton of baseball life left in my body. I didn't want my ability to go to waste.
When I was out of the Major Leagues, I was praying to get enough of a chance. Even if it were a chance over a 10-day period, I would have taken it. I wanted to show what I could do. Luckily, my body was always there for me -- I never lost my speed or my pop or by ability to play defense. That helped keep me positive.
Playing baseball is all I've ever really wanted to do.
Outfielder Emil Brown joined the Royals before the 2005 season and proceeded to post a career-high 86 RBIs. He had another 81 RBIs last year. Prior to joining Kansas City in '05, Brown, a native of Chicago, had last played in the Major Leagues in 2001.
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