YUMA, Ariz. — The major leagues are the ultimate. The pay is great. The working hours are short. The travel is first-class.
Ed Wojna, competing to make the Padres as their fifth starter in the pitching rotation, would like to make the majors for all of these reasons.
However, there may be an even more important reason that Wojna hopes to make the major league roster.
He and his wife, Jodette, have been married two years. They have changed residence eight times.
Such is the life style of a player who fluctuates between the minors and majors.
The Wojnas were married in February, 1985, in Lake Tahoe, their first home. The ensuing two years took them to residences in Yuma, Las Vegas and San Diego.
An easy way to stop this moving habit would be for Wojna, 26, to make the Padres in 1987. That's what he hopes to do, as he has been given his first legitimate shot at making the team in spring training.
If he doesn't make the team, it's back to the moving vans. It may not sound like a good idea, but it's better than some alternatives.
"You wonder sometimes," Wojna said. "But even with the money you make in the minor leagues, you say, 'Gee, where else would I make that money?' The money's decent in the minors; I just don't want to be there. I want to keep my responsibility as the husband to support my family. The best way for me to do that is to play baseball."
The last two seasons, baseball has not been very good to the Wojnas' stability.
Wojna, a right-hander, began the 1985 season at Las Vegas. He was called up to San Diego in mid-season, sent back to Las Vegas, then recalled to San Diego.
Last year wasn't so difficult in terms of moving. He was in Las Vegas until late August, then he was recalled to San Diego for the season's duration.
Every time the family moves, it's difficult. Jodette is a fashion designer and she has a 250-pound cutting table that makes each move. It has become a heavy load for the Wojnas, who do the moving themselves because it would cost a fortune to hire movers each time.
After last season, Ed and Jodette decided to settle down. They bought a condominium in Santee. If Ed makes the Padres this year, the cutting table can stay put.
Santee reminded Wojna of his hometown of Monroe, Conn., which is outside Bridgeport and not far from New York. Like Monroe, Santee is a small community near a big city.
Now, if only the Wojnas don't have to move again . . .
"When we move, it's a major undertaking," Wojna said. "It wreaks a little havoc. We looked at each other one day and said we were tired of moving. That's why we bought the condo. If things don't work out here or I get traded, at least we have a home in San Diego for five months each year (during the off-season). It gives us more stability."
The Wojnas decided to buy--instead of rent--after their last move to Las Vegas.
"At the time, we were on the second story of an apartment," Wojna said. "We kept having to go up and down the stairs. When I finally plopped that last handful of clothes down in Las Vegas, I was as tired as I could be. I was more tired than if I had pitched nine innings."
Early last season, Wojna wished he could have pitched nine innings. He did not complete any of his first 12 starts.
Padre Manager Larry Bowa, then the Las Vegas manager, had a talk with Wojna. Bowa noticed that Wojna seemed afraid to pitch inside to hitters. Thereafter, Wojna started pitching inside.
"He became more aggressive and threw strikes, instead of nibbling (at the corners of the plate)," Bowa said. "Early in the year, he kept pitching to one part of the plate. When he's aggressive and throws strikes, he's as good as anybody."
Wojna won nine of his last 12 decisions at Las Vegas, finishing 12-7. He won his last five decisions, three being complete games.
Wojna was so effective that he was recalled to the majors just before the minor league playoffs began.
He had a 2-2 record and 3.23 earned-run average in seven starts with the Padres. Included was a three-hit 9-1 victory over Atlanta in which he did not allow an earned run.
In retrospect, Wojna's season may have changed shortly after he suffered a back injury in late May. He missed two starts, did plenty of thinking to himself and listened to Bowa's advice.
"I started turning it around my first start back after the injury," Wojna said. "Maybe a couple of starts off let me think a little. Maybe I had renewed vigor."
At times last spring, the Padres were hoping that Wojna would show more vigor on the mound.
He used to be a terribly slow worker. That caused fielders to become bored, which in turn made them less effective.
This spring, Wojna is a fast worker, and he's more aggressive. Those are two traits that may help him earn a spot in the rotation.
"It's a great opportunity for him," pitching coach Galen Cisco said. "He has a chance to earn the job. If ever there were a time when the opportunity is there for him, it's now."