HOUSTON — He's proven to be flexible. No matter where he plays or whatever the conditions, Derrick Sylve always reserves a chair for a special guest who can't be there.
"I like to think he gets to come out and get a front row seat to every game," Sylve said.
To Sylve, "he" was grandpa. To the rest of baseball, he was "Pops," the late Willie Stargell.
Stargell was a powerful hitter, tremendous leader and, of course, a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
"He's a caring person," Sylve said. "He always wanted to make sure that the next person was OK and on the right path."
And Derrick's path? It's now taking him from Georgia during a pandemic to southeast Houston.
"To get my innings in," he said. "It's very limited; the levels that you can play at."
The Pecos League, one of the lowest levels of professional baseball, has brought its players and broadcaster to one central location.
It's doing everything it can to give players a place to play.
"We have 12 teams in six states in three time zones," said Andrew Dunn, the league's commissioner. "This is our tenth year. All the guys are just glad to be here."
And that includes the pitcher who is Willie Stargell's grandson.
"For me, it's learning how to do the right things on the baseball field," Sylve said. "Having fun with it."
Now 28, Sylve will likely never make the majors.
"[He's] just an imposing guy," Dunn said. "But really a command pitcher."
Yet Sylve continues to play. Wherever. Whenever.
"Hey, just like everybody else out here, we're trying to get onto that next level and see what happens," he said with a smile.
Sylve is playing for both himself and an audience of one.
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