VERO BEACH, Fla. -- There are 57 players in the Major League clubhouse at Dodgertown. And there's Eric Langill. The other players have polycarbonate nameplates above their lockers. Langill has his name scrawled with a Sharpie on a strip of medical tape. His locker is symbolically located next to the door.
He suits up in the same room as $55 million man J.D. Drew, but Langill signed with Montreal in 1999 for an $8,000 bonus as a draft-and-follow out of Des Moines (Iowa) Community College and has never earned more than $12,000 a year playing baseball. In truth, Langill doesn't really play much. A lifer backup catcher undersized at 5-foot-9, in six seasons he's appeared in only 162 games. After showing no bat in two seasons in the Expos organization, he was signed as a free agent by the Dodgers for the 2002 season. He has bounced to all levels, peaked with 14 games at Triple-A in 2004 and spent all of 2005 at Double-A Jacksonville. He played for Team Canada in the IBAF World Cup in the Netherlands in September and was added to this spring's original list of non-roster invitees because an extra catcher was needed to handle the large amount of pitchers. But if they paid ballplayers based on attitude, enthusiasm and pure love of the game, the 26-year-old Canadian would be a wealthy man. For what matters to him, he already is. "Ever since I was drafted in the 34th round, I've been a backup, but I know my role and I work hard," said Langill. "Last year I was behind [top prospect and the 'other' Canadian catcher] Russell Martin, so I played every fifth day. I just want to make the most of my opportunity. "A lot of people wouldn't do what I'm doing. I just keep my mouth shut. You never know what happens. If I wasn't doing this, I'd be cutting grass." That's no joke. During the winter, when he returns to Quebec, Langill shovels snow for a living, working for a friend's snow removal company. When that's the alternative, blocking 60-foot breaking balls in the dirt isn't so bad. "I'm just going to go with the flow as long as I have a jersey," said Langill. "I like being with the guys and the atmosphere. It's a good time. I just enjoy it." Langill is something of a celebrity back home and has his own weekly segment of a drive-time radio show that's popular enough to be in its second season. Friday's guest on the show was Langill's countryman teammate, Eric Gagne.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.