Jason Kershner doesn't watch baseball anymore.

Not the made-for-television version of the game at least. He has his own back-row seat to the live version -- the no tape-delay needed, feel the raindrops on your back type. He sits somewhere near the foul line or beyond the outfield fence, whatever passed for a bullpen in the Eastern, Texas or Pacific Coast leagues the last few seasons.

This year he's had to make a change. He couldn't find a job with a major league organization. So he inquired about a spot with the York Revolution. A pitcher with 89 career appearances (2002-04 with Padres and Blue Jays) in the big leagues, the 32-year-old hopes to rebuild his career at Sovereign Bank Stadium.

But Kershner -- at least the tween or teenage version of Kershner -- he must have been the Urkel of baseball dorks. Kershner can still tell the stories.

Out of school around 2 p.m. Head to the bus, take a short ride home, and hang out with his friends.

Jason Kershner had 89 career appearances with the Padres and Blue Jays in the the big leagues and hopes to rebuild his career with the Revolution this
Jason Kershner had 89 career appearances with the Padres and Blue Jays in the the big leagues and hopes to rebuild his career with the Revolution this season. (COURTESY OF READING PHILLIES)
Run to the ballpark in his hometown of Scottsdale, Ariz., to watch the San Francisco Giants' spring training game in the Cactus League.

He and his friends knew the place, it was home. So they figured ways to sneak in, the best way to collect autographs from the major leaguers.

He grew up before Arizona had a team of his own, before owners built pools in ballparks, before men in purple pinstripes hoisted the World Series trophy. He latched onto the Cubs -- they seemed like family.

"My grandfather was a diehard Cubs fan," Kershner said last week . "He didn't have to say a word, it was just one of those things. And growing up, they lost every year. Every year in spring training you hear, 'This is year.' It hasn't changed, they'll be 25 games under .500 and sell out every day. It's one of those teams you'd love to play for."

He doesn't single out a game or an inning during his major league stops.

His best days came when he pitched in Fenway, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards and Wrigley Field. He played against the Orioles during Cal Ripken's streak. And when he pitched against Ken Griffey Jr., a player he grew up watching on TV, he might as well have died and gone to that portion of baseball heaven Ray Kinsella created in "Field of Dreams."

What can we say? Dude geeks out talking baseball.

You know how weird that is to hear from a 14-year veteran?

Oh, some players still have fun in the Atlantic League. Other guys show the strain. It's understandable. Six months spent away from family. No year-round friends. They don't want to talk baseball. They're far removed from loving it, too busy living it. Some see the end coming. Some sound bitter. Some appear scared. They spent their entire adult lives playing for major league organizations, and now -- at age 30 -- no team wants to talk to them. So they send a resume to Sears, or they start calling leagues they never thought they would need. It can kill pride.

Some players take a different approach.

He's out of affiliated baseball, and he's not ashamed. He's ready to fix whatever went wrong. And he made sure to find a perfect fit in a league for the not-quite-perfect. He knew Pennsylvania from his days in the Phillies system. He developed some friendships with folks who live near Reading, so York didn't seem like a wasteland. He saw Chris Hoiles managed the Revolution, and he remembered an Orioles catcher. One of those guys from a special fraternity.

"I wasn't a super fan, but watching those teams, that's one team where you always heard they played the game the right way," Kershner said.

He was sold when he saw Tippy Martinez was the pitching coach.

"Being left-handed, I have had better luck with left-handed coaches, and guys who weren't so-called superstars," Kershner said. "Guys who weren't gifted with being able to throw 95 mph.

"It's one of those things, it's so hard to find a job (as a minor league free agent). That's one of the reasons why I'm coming to the league."

He doesn't expect to fly out of the Atlantic League in Week 1. He knows enough people in the game to realize that happens to only a select few. He doesn't mind the work.

"There's a misconception of independent leagues -- usually from players who have never played there -- that if you're there you can't play," Kershner said. "Or maybe you're over the hill. Knowing some of the guys in this league, they told me don't let that fool you. If you think it's a cake walk, you're not going to do well."

Every year it happens in places like Fargo, N.D., and Brockton, Mass., and Camden, N.J. Players find themselves on a team with no ties to a major league organization, and they fall apart -- for whatever reason. A .300 hitter suddenly can't hit the fat fastball from some Rookie-ball flameout. Injuries and age can be the culprit, but attitude has a lot to do with it.

And while it's too soon to say if any major league organization wants to take a chance on a 32-year-old southpaw with the York Revolution this season, it's clear to see Kershner has placed himself in the best situation.

He found a place where he knows he can succeed.

The next few weeks will be a little more difficult. It involves arm slot, and release points, and pitch location, and striking out right-handed batters. But it doesn't sound like that would ever scare a player like Kershner.

He's lived his whole life waiting for another chance to take the mound.
Jim Seip covers the York Revolution for the Daily Record/Sunday News. Reach him at jseip@ydr.com or 771-2025.


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SPRING SCHEDULE


   The York Revolution's spring training schedule:
   April 11: Players start arriving in York
   April 12: Easter Sunday
   April 13: No scheduled events
   April 14: Breakfast buffet with players/first open workout starts at 10 a.m.
   April 15: Open workout
   April 16: Revolution at Somerset Patriots, 1 p.m.
   April 17: Open workout
   April 18: Fan Fest, exhibition game against Susquehanna/Central League players
   April 19: Revolution at Lancaster Barnstormers, 1:30 p.m.
   April 20: Somerset Patriots at Revolution, 1 p.m.
   April 21: Lancaster Barnstormers at Revolution, 1 p.m.
   April 23: Regular season begins -- Revolution at Bridgeport Bluefish
   --- Three open workouts are scheduled to be held at Sovereign Bank Stadium, weather permitting. Times will be announced in April.