On July 14, 2004, at McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Craig Ansman was the starting catcher for the Pacific Coast League All-Star team, going 1-for-2. That was the highlight of a stellar three month period for Craig, in which he was insanely hot: from May-July, he batted .307 (62-for-202) with 17 doubles, 11 homers and 40 RBI in just 62 games for the Tucson Sidewinders. With the Diamondbacks' major-league catchers at that time being Robbie Hammock and Juan Brito, it seemed like Ansman was close to becoming one of those rare players to go from being an undrafted free-agent to the major-leagues.
But it was not to be. Indeed, after 2004, he appeared in only 11 more games, going 6-for-36 with the Sidewinders in 2005 before vanishing off the map entirely. Despite a career line of .294/.376/.541, giving him a .917 minor-league OPS which is close to unprecedented for his position, Asman never made the show, and vanished off the map entirely. I haven't been able to find out what happened. Could it have been injury? His 2003 season was curtailed in late June by a lower back strain, just when he was having a monster season too, hitting .324 with 15 homers in only 63 games with the Double-A El Paso Diablos, and made the Texas League All-Star team too.
If that had recurred, it would explain his late 2004 slump - he batted only .201 over his final 40 games for Tucson, and could conceivably have ended Ansman's career the next season, agonizingly close to the big leagues. That's gotta hurt, particularly after he had fallen through the cracks of the draft entirely, being signed by the Diamondbacks in June 2000 as a free-agent. In some ways, it perhaps feels better to have your dreams sputter out further from the goal. It's the same reason studies have shown Olympic bronze medal winners look happier than silver medal ones: the former feel "lucky to have a medal", while the latter tend to have positive emotions dampened by a feeling they missed out on gold.
Back in those days, there was only the "primordial slime" version of the SnakePit, where we had a Gameday Thread and sporadic other articles, whenever I damn well felt like it. There was no John Baragona to keep an eye on our farm system and bring it to our attention when a prospect went off the radar; no Twitter feeds to update us on injury news from our minor-league franchises. Hell, the entire farm thing seemed a lot more distant and less significant in 2004. Though let's face it, you could probably have swapped the entire Diamondbacks and Sidewinders rosters that year, save Randy Johnson, and the difference would likely have been negligible.
So, where is Ansman now? Actually, I'm feeling rather stalkery, as I discovered more about him than I expected. Seems he's living in Newtown, Connecticut, with his wife, whom he married in January 2005. I'm looking at her Facebook page as I type, and what seems to be one of their wedding photos. Yep, I think I just creeped myself out a little bit. Part of me wants to call Craig up and find out what happened, and I could do just that. But I think, as well as respecting his privacy, I'd prefer to keep the mystery intact of the Diamondbacks' variant on Moonlight Graham, who never even got the courtesy of a cup of coffee in the majors.