Eight Inspirational Minutes With Augie Ojeda

Name any other major-league baseball player who has played in the Olympic Games for the United States and for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.

Go ahead. Try.

Look no further than former Arizona Diamondbacks fan favorite Augie Ojeda, who is now happily reunited with his original team, the Chicago Cubs.

Ojeda, a Chandler resident after four seasons with the D-backs, continues to live the dream. He's 36, and his ride in the big leagues isn't over. Ojeda and Darwin Barney are battling for a spot on the Cubs' final roster as utility infielders.

Both are solid fielders. Whomever hits the best in spring training games might be the deciding factor for manager Mike Quade. But Ojeda knows the drill -- his career has often been about fighting uphill battles and roster spot competitions, and he keeps showing up at spring training and eventually finding his way to the 25-man roster.

"The best opportunity was coming back (to Chicago) and just playing in Wrigley Field," Ojeda said of his offseason options after the D-backs granted him free agency when the 2010 season was over. "They have fans everywhere. Everywhere they go, they draw. Playing at home every day for a packed house, the tradition and the hunger of winning because it hasn't been done in so long. I would like to be part of that and hopefully this year, we can do it."

Few could have imagined that Ojeda, somewhat small in stature but a giant at heart, would fashion a career out of scrappy, hustling, hard-nose baseball that kept him in demand from one year to the next. His career batting average is .234 and he's hit seven career home runs since 2000, when he made his major-league debut with the Cubs.

But it's the hard-nosed approach to the game that endeared Ojeda to Diamondbacks fans in recent years.

He described his playing style as "go out there and give 120 percent every day."

"Between the lines, play hard, and that's what the fans like," Ojeda said, "and that's why they pay a lot of money to go see major-league baseball. The bottom line is just play hard and play the game the right way, and they appreciate it."

Whoa, did he really say that? In today's cutthroat sports world of high salary demands and outrageous contracts, Ojeda, refreshingly, has the fans in mind.   

Fifteen spring trainings, and every year that passes, another baseball buddy of Ojeda's retires and starts working in another field. But Ojeda isn't ready to give up living his dream.

"It's fun, I still enjoy it and I feel great," Ojeda said. "I've been blessed. I thank God every day. I wake up every day and I'm just excited to be here... not in my wildest dreams did I think I would be playing at this age. Hard work pays off. Keep striving at your goal and good things will happen."

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