MODESTO - The Modesto Nuts added a new infielder on Tuesday, but this one didn’t need to ask for directions to John Thurman Field or have to be shown the way to the home clubhouse.
You might say Dean Espy is a Nuts’ legacy, since his father Duane Espy was Modesto’s hitting coach from 2008-10, around the time Dean Espy was getting started and then becoming a fixure at first base for UCLA.
As a strapping 17-year-old infield prospect, the young Espy made frequent trips to Modesto to be with his dad, who went from Modesto following the 2010 season to become the manager at Double-A Tulsa and now is the Developmental Director for the Rockies in Tulsa.
Now 23, Dean Espy is happy to be on familiar turf, but his road here hasn’t been entirely smooth.
He was drafted in the 15th round of the 2011 draft by Kansas City, and debuted by hitting .318 with short-season Idaho Falls, then hit .255 with Kane County of the low-A Midwest League last year.
He was looking forward to playing this summer with the Wilmington (Del.) Blue Rocks of the High-A Carolina League, but the Royals instead released him toward the end of spring training.
“I guess it just didn’t work out with the Royals,” Espy said. “I was playing well and I guess they wanted to keep some older guys and they felt they didn’t have enough at-bats for me. They said they felt I’d get picked up by someone. It was unfortunate to get released so quickly after having a really good spring. It was a shock.”
But the Rockies, who had drafted Espy in the 41st round out of high school, quickly signed him and placed him on the Asheville roster in mid-April.
He played one game for Asheville, then stepped in a hole and tore a meniscus, requiring surgery.
“I’m fully functional,” Espy said. “Yesterday would have been my first day to be active on the Asheville roster, but now I’m here.”
But where will Espy play? The Nuts already are rotating Harold Riggins and Jordan Ribera at first base.
That question was answered by the roster move that cleared room for Espy, since Juan Rivera has been placed on the disabled list with a lingering oblique strain, creating a need for a third baseman. In addition, while rehabilitating his knee in Scottsdale, Espy has been playing every day at third base to prepare for the challenge.
So with one Espy now in Modesto and his dad just one step above on the Colorado ladder, have the two discussed what it would be like to be wearing the same uniform?
“I’ve never played any ball under my dad, and yes, that would be weird,” Espy said. “We were talking about that the other day and we decided that I needed to slow down because he needs to retire before I get to the level he’s at.
“No, it would be fun because we have a great relationship. He’s always been on my team and it would be fun to get to do something together.”