In comparison to athletes in many other sports, baseball players are immortal. Seriously, they can play forever. That’s not to say that it doesn’t take a lot of skills and athleticism to maintain a professional baseball career over a long period of time, but the fact that baseball players can still be competitive into their 40s is impressive. The longevity of many baseball players means that it can become easy to lose track of some of the oldest players in the league.
Then again, it can be difficult to keep track of active current and former MLB stars in general. When you account for the minor leagues, international organizations, and good old-fashioned “last man in” MLB roster spots, there are plenty of places for professional baseball players to keep doing their thing. Combine all of these factors, and you start to realize that there are many baseball players that don’t really retire so much as they fall out of the spotlight and you eventually forget about them. All over the world, there are names you once knew well still playing baseball. Many of them are actually still on MLB rosters. These are the 15 MLB players you didn’t realize were still playing baseball.
15 Endy Chávez
It took a little bouncing around for Endy Chávez to finally find his way onto a major league roster. He began in his minor league career in 1996 with the Mets and spent four years in their system. In 2000, he was finally claimed by the Kansas City Royals in the 2000 Rule 5 draft. He then proceeded to bounce between the Mets and Royals before finally being activated by the Montreal Expos. Go figure. Once he finally got the chance to play the major, Chávez proved to be a valuable asset. While his most famous play will always be his 2006 NLCS catch, he was a consistent contributor throughout.
14 Ichiro Suzuki
In the hearts of millions, Ichiro Suzuki will always be a Seattle Mariner. Following an astonishing career in Japan, Suzuki finally made his way to America in 2001. Suzuki stole the show almost immediately. He became an international sensation whose play captured the imaginations of fans in Japan and America. Soon, Suzuki became known as a hitting machine who was almost impossible to pitch around. His talent is legendary. Suzuki did eventually leave the Mariners and joined the New York Yankees. His numbers dropped by digits across the board, but he still remained productive.
13 Matt Bush
12 Bryan Bullington
11 R.A. Dickey
10 Julio Franco
This is definitely a strange one that might technically stretch the definition of active, but it’s too fascinating not to include. Long ago in 1982, Julio Franco began his MLB career by playing in 16 games for the Philadelphia Phillies. This began his first run in the league as well as some of the greatest years in Franco’s considerable career. Soon, however, the MLB strike hit and Franco found himself needing to go to Japan in order to continue playing. Remarkably, he returned to the majors in 2001 as a 43-year-old player.
9 Greg Reynolds
The long history of MLB busts is littered with “where are they now?” stories. What’s amazing about Greg Reynolds’s story is that it feels like he’s been away from baseball forever, when it’s really only been a few years. Reynolds was taken with the second overall pick in the 2006 MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies. For their investment, the Rockies expected to receive a dominant pitcher that would anchor their rotation for years to come. What they got instead was an injury prone thrower whose natural abilities just never translated into tangible skills. He played for the Rangers and the Reds before MLB teams stopped giving him a chance.
8 Bryan LaHair
If the name Bryan LaHair doesn’t exactly ring a bell, that’s because LaHair’s moment in the sun was fairly fleeting. Selected with the 39th overall pick in the 2002 MLB Draft, LaHair was thought of as a gifted hitter with a world of potential. As a minor league player, he put up impressive numbers that seemed to justify the hype that surrounded LaHair’s arrival. Ultimately, though, LaHair wouldn’t make a professional roster until the Cubs promoted him in 2011. What they found is that LaHair was a better baseball player than most, but not a better baseball player than most who played professionally.
7 A.J. Pierzynski
6 Koji Uehara
5 Daisuke Matsuzaka
4 Jason Grilli
3 Wily Mo Peña
Aside from having the kind of name that just rolls off the tongue, Wily Mo Peña has always been a respected overall player. He got his break in the league sometime in 2003 when the Cincinnati Reds discovered that he was a pretty great substitute for Ken Griffey Jr. whenever Jr. was going through one of his bouts with injury. Soon, however, they traded him to the Boston Red Sox where Peña continued to contribute in a supporting role. From there, Peña began the journeyman part of his career as teams picked him up whenever they needed a veteran batter.
2 Bartolo Colón
1 Manny Ramirez
Manny being Manny. It’s the phrase that Red Sox fans and MLB fans across the world got used to hearing quite often during Manny Ramirez’s prime. It was a phrase that spoke to everything good about Ramirez’s reign as one of the league’s premiere hitters and the bad moments that came along with it. For every big play that Ramirez generated, he generated an equal amount of discontent and disgrace. As a member of the Boston Red Sox, Ramirez helped generate the numbers and the attitude needed to regenerate the Boston baseball franchise. Shortly after leaving Boston, though, Ram Ramirez’s exploits began to outweigh his contributions. A memorable stint with the Dodgers proceeded a forgettable tenure with the White Sox and Rays. When it was all said and done, Ramirez abandoned his MLB comeback attempts and favored a stint in Japan. In 2017, he declared himself a member of the Kochi Fighting Dogs.
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