No-name third baseman inks monumental deal

B. Scott

In what is being called the eye-opening deal of the off-season, the Minnesota Twins signed Jeff Lehti, a wash-up third baseman last seen playing for the Pack-R-Place recreation softball club in Stoughton, WI, to a one-year $500 contract Thursday.
“This is something that I have dreamed about since I was a kid,” Lehti said at a Minneapolis news conference, through a tobacco-infested set of teeth. Manager Tom Kelly then told Lehti to turn his cap around forward adn “look like a ballplayer.”
Though the sum is well below the league minimum, it is all the ailing Twins could afford and thus Major League Baseball Commissioner Allen “Bud” Selig allowed the deal to go through.
“Hey, face it, this is the only amount that Minnesota could afford to sign a player for,” Selig said via cell phone while vacationing in Africa. “And we all know they need a third baseman. Hell, they need anything they can get.”
It is the lowest recorded amount ever to be paid for a ballplayer in the modern era. Sources told the Cosmodailytan on Thursday the Florida Marlins, Montreal Expos and Milwaukee Brewers (all in financial woes) of MLB’s National League are considering similar low salaries to players because it is all the teams can afford. The Twins remain the only team in the American League bad enough to be allowed the extra-low salary offers.
Lehti, 38, was a successful youth and high school baseball player and was offered a full scholarship to attend Miami (Florida) in 1980. However, the offer was withdrawn after the then 18-year-old was caught studying geography instead of working on his “Hot Corner” diving catch.
“All he needed to know on a map was where the ‘Canes play ball,” Miami skipper Paul Rollin barked following the discovery of Lehti hitting the books over baseballs. “And that’s here in Miami. Miami, Florida . . . not Ohio.”
Following a national scandal surrounding the dropped scholarship ordeal, Lehti was picked up by the Centerville (South Dakota) Mudcats, an AA baseball affiliate. There, he hit .074 and made 47 errors in two seasons of play. Lehti made regional headlines when an errant ball thrown by the third baseman managed to kill a passing squirrel in 1983.
After a brief hiatus from the sport after his release from the Mudcats at the end of the 1983 season, Lehti made rent by working as a deli counterboy until the Stoughton Rec. came calling.
“The Rec. league gave me the opportunity to do what I love again,” Lehti said. “It was ball. I didn’t care that my uniform had a sponsor on the back of it. Bottom line, it was a uniform, and I was playing ball.”
Lehti managed to keep low budget agent Bradley Lee through his recreation playing days and the 37-year-old known best for hiring the wrong hip doctor for Bo Jackson in the early 1990s came in handy when inking the $500 deal with the Twins.
“Jeff is earning money to play baseball again,” Lee said. “That, and I am earning 10 percent of it. I mean, that’s just great.”
Though it wasn’t known if Lehti would make an immediate impact under the Metrodome come April, the former high school standout is happy to be recognized.
“So what if I was the only one who would play for them,” Lehti pondered. “I’m playing baseball. And I got $450 to play with, too.”

Brian Stensaas did not steal this idea from the Conan O’Brien show, which ran a similar bit about signing a player to a small contract on Tuesday evening. He welcomes comments at [email protected]