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The strange case of Andrew Pullin

Andrew Pullin runs to first during a game against Syracuse on May 2, 2018. Pullin announced his retirement from baseball less than a month later. (Photo by Cheryl Pursell)

You get the feeling that there’s something going on with Andrew Pullin that the baseball world doesn’t know about. For the second time in just over two years, he’s retired from baseball. In early April of 2016, Pullin – at the ripe old age of 22 – announced his retirement from baseball. Now, at the age of 24, he’s done it again.

When he first retired there was speculation that he was dismayed at being assigned to Clearwater where he had played in 2015 and hit a Florida State League leading 14 home runs. He expected to move up the ladder to double-a Reading, but was again a Thresher.

He came back to baseball – and the Phillies – a month later after spending time back in his hometown of Centralia, Washington. He explained that there were some “problems” at home that he had to take care of but that he was back and feeling “better than ever” and “having a lot of fun.”

This time a weird scenario played out at Coca-Cola Park. Pullin, hitting 2-11-.171/.224/.291 with triple-a Lehigh Valley, was in the lineup and playing left field. All of a sudden the IronPigs announced that there was a lineup change coming. Next thing, Pullin was seen wearing street clothes, packing his bags and then heading for the clubhouse door with his cell phone in hand. Keep in mind that this was all happening against the backdrop of the announcement that a CT scan had revealed a fracture in Rhys Hoskins‘ jaw and he was likely headed to the DL.

Under those circumstances, it’s not unusual to see a scenario like Pullin’s play out; somebody is headed for the majors. But, Pullin? After all, he was hitting just .171 and wasn’t on the 40-man roster meaning somebody else would have to be moved off to make room for his well below Mendoza-line numbers. Perhaps the Phillies had found a team with some journeyman veteran outfielder who they were willing to give up to take a flyer on a guy with some potential, hoping that change of scenery thing would kick in and there was a trade?

When the new lineup came out, sure enough, Pullin wasn’t in the lineup. It seemed he was headed somewhere. Nobody guessed Centralia, Washington.

The media’s attention turned to the game until someone noticed someone with an impressively shaped beard much like Pullin’s wearing Pullin’s uniform in the dugout. It was none other than Andrew Pullin.

Then, after the game came the announcement that he was again headed for home. Andrew Pullin was retiring for the second time in his life before he had even reached the age of 25.

Many times, players get ripped for their on-field performance without anybody knowing that there was something going on in their personal life that was taking away their focus. It’s easy to say that Andrew Pullin gave up. That he pouted when he didn’t get the promotion to Reading that he was expecting in 2016 and he pouted when he was hitting just .171 in late May at the triple-a level. You have to wonder though if maybe there is a cause-and-effect situation with Pullin’s performance this season.

Consider the case of former Phillies outfielder Doug Glanville. After being acquired from the Cubs for Mickey Morandini a couple days before Christmas of 1997, Glanville hit 41-229-.285/.323/.395 and stole 116 bases in his first four seasons with the Phillies. He was a fan favorite. In 2002 he was being booed as his average dipped as low as .210 by late April. For a while, he would appear to have righted things and would look like his old self. Then, seemingly overnight, he would be cold again. From late April to late May, his average moved as high as .250 but fell back to .223 on May 26th. He would hit as low as .215 in mid-August and rebounded to hit .249 on the season with four home runs and 19 stolen bases.

What nobody knew was that his father was seriously ill. On what would be Glanville’s last day as a Phillie – September 29, 2002 – he went 3-for-4 with a walk and an RBI. He then found out that his dad had passed away. A month later he became a free agent and went on to sign with Texas only to be traded back to the Cubs at the 2003 trade deadline.

He admitted later that his focus wasn’t always on baseball that season. Understandable. During the season though he made no excuses and only those very close to him knew what was going on.

If you take Pullin at his word that there was a family issue two years ago, it’s possible that there has been something weighing on him this season.

It’s easy to forget that athletes have lives away from baseball. They have fights with their wife. They have relationships that end. Family members and friends get sick, parents divorce. Sometimes, even money gets tight, especially for a minor league player.

Life happens.

It’s likely that Andrew Pullin’s career is over. Whatever is going on has taken him away from baseball twice in two years now and teams might not invest much hope that he’s going to revive his career after this. It’s likely that we’ll never know if Pullin would have had what it takes to become a major league player. You can only hope that whatever is going on turns out okay for him. You can only hope that when things get straightened out he may be able to pursue that college degree that he never got after being drafted out of high school in 2012. Maybe life will be good for Andrew Pullin. Odds are, we’ll never know.

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