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Borders demotes himself
By Chuck King

Pat Borders believes he still has enough talent to help a major league baseball club. And it doesnít matter to him that heís proving it in an unconventional way.

The 1992 World Series MVP who will turn 43 in May is the current backstop for Vero Beach, the Dodgers Triple-A affiliate in the Florida State League. And thatís fine with him. In fact, itís where Borders asked to be.

"I figured I could be close to home here and enjoy playing and keep in shape," said Borders, who lives in Lake Wales. "These guys are throwing just as hard as the major leaguers. It will be a good place to stay at home and get the opportunity to play."

(Only two Vero Beach players were out of diapers when Borders began his professional career in 1982 with the Medicine Hat Blue Jays of the Pioneer League.)

The Dodgers, whose farm system is rich with catching prospects, brought in Borders this spring as insurance for oft-injured catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. When Alomar remained healthy and made the big league team, the club offered Borders a job with Class AAA Las Vegas.

He chose the short bus rides of the Florida State League instead of the cross-continent flights of the widespread Pacific Coast League.

(There is no longer a minor league franchise in Medicine Hat, Canada.)

A career .253 in 1,099 major-league games, Borders hit .450 with one homerun to claim the 1992 World Series MVP honors.

His major league debut came in 1988 with the Blue Jays and Borders remained a big leaguer through 2000, playing with eight teams. Since his return to the minors in 2000 Borders has appeared in less than 100 games at the major league level with Seattle and Minnesota.

If starting his 25th professional season in the minors bothers Borders, he doesnít show it.

"Whatever they have in mind for me is fine. Iím going to enjoy playing," Borders said. "I still like it. It doesnít matter if itís here or Los Angeles, itís the same amount of enjoyment for me."

Part of that enjoyment is getting to know his new teammates. Borders says his young teammates are just starting to open up to him. Most of them have stopped calling him "sir."

(Seven current Florida Marlins werenít born when Borders played his first minor league game.)

The veteran is trying to maintain a low clubhouse profile. Borders wonít draw on his experience with clubhouse pranks, fearing the repercussions of younger and perhaps more devious minds.

And he expects to pay a heavy price when the Dodgers hold their first kangaroo court Ė a minor league tradition in which players hold their teammates financially accountable for acts ranging from the silly to the absurd.

Aside from any bus ride shenanigans his Vero teammates may be planning, theyíre eager to learn from Borders.

"He has so much experience," reserve catcher Chris Westervelt said. "I ask him questions and kind of pick his brain apart to get as much information from him as I can."

(As a member of the Detroit Tigers, Vero Beach manager Luis Salazar played against Borders during the catcherís rookie season in Toronto.)

Thus far this season, all that experience isnít helping much. Borders started the season in a 2-for-26 slump.

His spot on the team, however, doesnít appear to be in jeopardy.

Los Angeles director of player development Terry Collins considers Bordersí influence on the young Dodgersí catchers to be invaluable, and he would like first crack at Borders if he turns to coaching upon retirement.

"This is one of those guys who just has a passion for the game," said Collins, who managed Borders in Houston in 1995. "Those guys you just have to find a way to keep in the game, somehow."

Check out my blog for more on Borders and Minor League Baseball.

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