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Zinter wakes up to realize dream
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06/17/2002 11:31 pm ET 
Zinter wakes up to realize dream
34-year-old reaches big leagues after 14 years
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com

Zinter, shown here during Spring Training, hit .230 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs for Triple-A New Orleans. (Spencer Green/AP)
MILWAUKEE -- About a month ago, a longtime minor leaguer who last year finally got a call to the big leagues was telling another longtime minor leaguer, who had never made it, what it was like.

On Monday, after 14 seasons in the minor leagues, Alan Zinter finally found out for himself.

Zinter, a 34-year-old catcher and infielder, stepped onto a Major League field for the first time Monday when he took batting practice with his new Houston Astros teammates before a 5-2 loss to the Brewers at Miller Park.

It was the same field on which Mike Coolbaugh debuted with the Brewers last year after 11 seasons in the minors.

"He said, 'You've got to get up there,'" Zinter said, referring to his conversation with Coolbaugh, who is now in the Cardinals chain. "And then it happened. I can't believe it. It's awesome, I can't even explain it."

What's the best part?

All-Star ballot "Just waking up and you're still there," he said, smiling. "Because I've had dreams about this before and it's weird. I always would dream where I could never get to the park or something like that. And then I get up and it's just another day in the minors.

"To wake up this morning, and it was actually real, and my roommate was saying 'atta boy!' It was amazing. Even though I'm 34, I feel like a little kid."

Zinter said he expects to serve mostly as a left-handed power bat off Astros manager Jimy Williams' bench, playing behind catchers Brad Ausmus and Greg Zaun. He hit .230 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs for Triple-A New Orleans.

The Zephyrs were playing the Rockies' affiliate in Colorado Springs, Colo., Sunday, when Zinter was removed in a double switch in the eighth inning. He didn't know he had been called up until after the game.

Zinter boarded a flight to Dallas, then another to Milwaukee, to join the Astros before their game against the Brewers.

"The love and dedication for the game, and for this to be his first call-up to the big leagues, it's awesome," Astros veteran Craig Biggio said. "Everyone in the clubhouse is elated for him. What a great story."

Zinter was a first-round pick of the New York Mets in 1989 and has played in six different Major League organizations and in Japan. He batted .435 with five home runs and 10 RBIs in Spring Training this year.

"Most people don't have an understanding of what 13, 14 years means," Biggio said. "The 4:30 a.m. flights, the long bus rides. It's a big price to do what you love."

"I'm looking forward to just enjoying this," Zinter said. "I'm going to lay it all out on the field and give it everything I've got."

To make room for Zinter and pitcher Scott Linebrink, who was recalled from the disabled list Sunday night, the Astros optioned infielders Adam Everett and Keith Ginter to Triple-A.

"We'll see what happens, it changes every day," Williams said. "I just feel like we need 12 pitchers. All due respect to those two youngsters we sent out, they weren't playing. They need to play."

The team also announced Monday it had signed fourth-round draft pick Mark McLemore, a left-handed pitcher from Oregon State University. McLemore will report to short-season Class A Tri-City.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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