Sprague, the son of former major-league right-hander Ed Sprague, inherited the Blue Jays’ third base job from Kelly Gruber in 1993 and spent the next five years as Toronto’s main man at the hot corner. He hit for power, but not for average, mainly because of his inconsistency against right-handed pitching. In 1996, he was named team MVP after socking a club-high 36 homers and driving in 101 runs.
Shoulder problems ended Sprague’s tenure with the Blue Jays. In 1998, he was dealt to the A’s, where he backed up Eric Chavez. Sprague signed with the Pirates for 1999, and totally revamped his stance in spring training. “I always liked the way Mickey Tettleton looked at the plate,” he explained. “I said to myself, I’d like to swing like that one day.”
The new stance worked. Leading the club in homers at the break, Sprague was tabbed as the Bucs’ lone representative at the All-Star Game. (Jason Kendall, the obvious choice, was out for the season with a knee injury.) But he slumped in August and broke his left hand in late September, forcing the Pirates to withdraw a multi-million-dollar contract extension offer. After considering a move to Japan, Sprague stayed in the States, spending parts of the next two seasons with the Padres, Red Sox, and Mariners.