I admit this series is an odd bird. There is no rhyme or reason to it outside of looking at players since 1991 who have been a part of the experience of me watching the Braves. Some were long-term fixtures while others had just a year or two. But because of the nature of this series where I use a random year and a random player from that year, I sometimes get a guy like Ray Holbert. He spent all of 115 games in the majors and only eight of those games came with the Braves. But…that doesn’t stop him from joining the rest of the Random Ex-Braves. It’s kind of what I love about this series, to be honest. Of the 26 I’ve profiled so far, I can go from guys like Tom Thobe (profile) and Derrin Ebert (profile) to others like Javy Lopez (profile) and Kevin Millwood (profile). It’s too easy to profile guys who were stars. The Holbert’s of the world take a bit more effort.
Born September 25, 1970 in Torrance, California, Holbert has the honor of being born on one of the most Barveist of days. The Braves lost 7-4 to the Astros in 12 innings that day despite 17 hits. They left 18 runners on base and squandered a four hit day by Dusty Baker. As for Holbert, he attended David Starr Jordan High School in Long Beach until his selection during the third round of the 1988 draft. He was the first pick of the the third round. The sixth selection, Darren Oliver, would work out a bit better. The 19th pick, which included the Expos picking Marquis Grissom, worked out much better.
As a minor leaguer, Holbert was the kind of player who needed a couple of years before he started to show much. In his fourth year, he increased his batting average into the .260’s, which was decent enough with his combination of speed and willingness to take his walks. Basically, he was Pedro Ciriaco if Ciriaco ever thought a pitch wasn’t worth swinging at. By 1994, Holbert reached the .300 plateau, swiping 27 bases for the Las Vegas Stars with an .803 OPS. The experience got him a week or so in the majors and his first major league hit off former Red and deadbeat dad Tom Browning.
Holbert would play a bigger role for the Padres in 1995. He spent most of the year in the majors, but was rarely used and played in just 63 games, though he had a pretty big moment on July 17. He was just 3-for-30 entering the game (again, he wasn’t used much), but Holbert got the start at shortstop against the Reds. It was the second of six consecutive starts so I imagine an injury had opened up some brief playing time for Holbert. With the Reds up 6-3, Holbert stepped in against another future Brave, C.J. Nitkowski. The Reds had opted to walk Brad Ausmus to load the bases to get to Holbert. As Reds manager Davey Johnson said, “You have to go right after” the “8-hole hitter who’se not hitting a buck 50.” Holbert took a first pitch ball before whacking Nitkowski’s delivery beyond the left-field wall at the old Jack Murphy Stadium for a Grand Slam. The Reds, who led the game 5-0, lost 8-6. Holbert would hit just two homeruns over his 202 AB career with the second coming near the end of the year against the Giants. Of his 11 career RBIs, 36% came on that one swing.
After the year, the Padres moved Holbert to the Astros for Pedro Martinez (no, not the Pedro). It send Holbert back to the minors where he spent one injury-riddled campaign with the Tucson Toros, playing just 28 games. After the year, the Astros chose not to bring him back and he signed with the Tigers, but again was back in the minors for the year. During the winer of 1997-98, the Braves came calling and signed Holbert. He would open the year in AAA, but an injury to Rafael Belliard, who was playing because Walt Weiss was was a little dinged up, led to Holbert joining the Braves on April 10. He would start two consecutive games for the Braves, going hitless with a walk. Holbert spent the rest of April and the beginning of May rarely playing and only received one start following his two-start beginning. By Mid-May, the Braves designated Holbert for assignment to make room for Ozzie Guillen and Holbert ultimately chose to try free agency.
He would finish 1998 with the Montreal organization and played two games with the big league club. After the year, he landed in Kansas City and got his second biggest single-season exposure in the majors with the Royals in 1999. He played in 34 games and even hit .280, becoming a good backup on the infield. Kansas City would bring him back in 2000, but he didn’t make the team out of camp and outside of a three-game stint in June, he spent most of the year with Omaha. His last game in the majors came on June 18, 2000. With the Royals already down by 15, Holbert got a chance to play third base. In his first at-bat, he singled to lead to Kansas City’s third run. He struck out swinging in his final at-bat and the Royals eventually lost 21-3. I imagine Chris Berman made a hilarious Raiders/Chiefs reference.
Holbert would sign with Tampa Bay in efforts to prolong his career, but he either was released or retired because his last game came as a member of the Omaha Golden Spikes in 2000. Since retiring, Holbert has been involved in Financial Destination, Inc…which depending on who you believe is either an innovative marketing company or a pyramid scheme leaving people feeling ripped off. Holbert last updated his twitter since 2011 so I’m not sure if’s still involved with FDI. His brother Aaron Holbert has stayed involved in baseball, though, and is preparing for his 4th season as the Mississippi Braves manager.