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BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHT: MIDRE CUMMINGS

Feb. 11, 2004 – Midre Almeric Cummings was born in Christiansted in 1971, but he grew up more in the Frederiksted area, including the White Lady neighborhood. He began playing baseball in Little League, coached by Elmo Plaskett. Moving to Miami in 1989, he displayed his athletic ability at Edison High School, not only starring on the baseball team, but setting state records running track.
The Minnesota Twins drafted Cummings with a supplemental first-round pick in 1990. In 1991, he won the Midwest League batting title.
Cummings climbed rapidly through the minors, making his debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates when the rosters expanded in September 1993. Pittsburgh hoped he could emerge as a starter after some more grooming. But at Triple-A Buffalo in 1994, things did not go well at all. Cummings missed 44 games early with a cracked tailbone.
Never able to establish himself as an everyday player for a full season, Cummings kept himself in the major leagues through his skills as a pinch hitter and fielder. After breaking in with the Pirates in 1993, he played more than a hundred games in a season only once, in 1997, when he split time with the Pirates and the Philadelphia Phillies.
In 63 games leading off for the Phillies, he hit .303, earning regular playing time for the second half of the season. His impatience at the plate ruined his on-base percentage in 1998, though, and he spent the remainder of his career as a fourth or fifth outfielder.
Cummings' love of the game enabled him to persevere. At age 28, heading into the 2000 season, he was young enough to re-establish his big-league career — and did so. While the Twins shuffled assorted outfielders around, Cummings stayed on the roster, spot-starting in the outfield and at designated hitter and again showing a knack coming off the bench in the late innings. He racked up 11 pinch-hits through early June, threatening to overtake the V.I. record of 25 set by Shady Morales.
A free agent after spending 2000 with the Twins and the Boston Red Sox, Cummings signed a minor-league deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. He made the club in spring training but shortly thereafter got caught up in the numbers game. Passed through waivers, he accepted an assignment to Triple-A Tucson, where he batted over .400 for a spell and might have led the Pacific Coast League in triples, had minor injuries not kept him out of the lineup late in the season.
The struggle to stay in the majors was wearing him down mentally, however — and he was considering retirement. But that September, he was named to the Diamondbacks postseason roster as Arizona advanced to the playoffs — and then to the 2001 World Series against the New York Yankees. Cummings thus became the second Crucian in history to play in the Series (the first was Joe Christopher in 1960), and the first Virgin Islander since Elrod Hendricks (for the Yankees) in 1976. And he not only played; he left his mark.
He scored in Game 4 as a pinch runner. And then, in the ninth inning of the improbable Game 7, again as pinch runner, he scored the tying run that set the stage for the underdog Diamondbacks to defeat New York, 3-2. (See "Diamondbacks win World Series".)
That November, the V.I. Legislature honored the Crucian champion by renaming a park in Frederiksted the Midre Almeric Cummings Recreational and Youth Facility. In March of 2002, he rejoined the Diamondbacks for the World Series ring dinner. By that time, though, he had signed a minor-league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. Once more he wound up in Triple-A, where his season was cut short after 11 games by a shoulder injury.
After patiently rehabbing the shoulder, Cummings agreed to yet another free-agent deal, this time with the Chicago Cubs. It was another verse of the same song: too many bodies in camp meant an assignment to the minors. The 2003 season was up and down.
Although he established a professional career high in homers with 19, two protracted slumps in the second half left his average at just .255 — well below his Triple-A norm of .300-plus. The upshot was that he did not get a September callup, missing a chance to help the Cubs in their playoff drive.
Despite his career highs and lows Cummings has expressed satisfaction with his life: "I'm very happy with who I am. I think I've been very, very lucky and blessed to play in the major leagues coming from a place like Frederiksted, the Virgin Islands. A lot of people have goals and dreams, and I have known people in their 40s, 50s, 60s [who] can't even come close.
"I set my dream at about 17 to 18, and I reached it at 21. So I couldn't ask for anything better."

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