We don't have to know a player's background to appreciate his fantastic feats. Rich Hill's near-perfecto/near-no-no on Wednesday night would have been enthralling even if we were strangers to his story.
But when you know that, before Hill emerged as a starter capable of a no-hit night, he bounced around from organization to organization, endured injuries and an Independent ball stint and tragically lost his newborn son to medical complications, you add nuance to the narrative and soul to the experience.
That's kind of what the upcoming Players Weekend is all about -- getting to know these guys a little better. The brightly colored alternate jerseys being worn this weekend will, in many cases, bear nicknames in place of surnames, and it's been fun sorting through the best of the bunch. But don't forget about the other personal touch on these unique unis -- the patches on which players will write the name of someone who helped them get to this point. It's a small way to understand the paths that led to the present.
With that in mind, this seems like a good time to go over some of the game's more interesting stories you might have missed from 2017. This is hardly an all-inclusive list. It's just 10 guys whose atypical journeys are of interest this season.
Nicky Delmonico, OF, White Sox
Since his Aug. 1 promotion by the Sox, the 25-year-old rookie has cranked out a 1.048 OPS with six homers and a pair of doubles. Delmonico has not only risen from obscurity, but beaten some personal demons. He became addicted to Adderall early in his pro career with the Brewers. When he took it without receiving a medical exemption in 2014, he was suspended for 50 games and nearly quit altogether. He requested his release from the Brewers before the 2015 season and might have walked away if not for the second chance offered by the Sox, who let him know he had a Minor League job available to him when he got out of rehab. Delmonico beat his addiction and has beaten the odds to impact the Sox and become an unexpectedly key piece of their rebuild.
Rhys Hoskins, LF/1B, Phillies
Hoskins fought through the personal adversity of losing his mother to breast cancer to put up good numbers in high school, but he went undrafted. Sacramento State was the only school to offer him a scholarship. Even though he had a productive college career, teams weren't certain his bat would translate, so the Phillies got him in the fifth round of the 2014 Draft. There were continued questions about whether his eye-popping numbers at Triple-A (.966 OPS, 29 homers, 24 doubles in 115 games) were a mirage, but Hoskins has delivered on the big stage so far, becoming just the fourth player in history with seven homers in his first 14 games.
Manny Pina, C, Brewers
Pina is a 30-year-old rookie who has handled the bulk of the catching duties for the Brew Crew three years after nearly quitting the game when he was ancient by Double-A standards and looking unlikely to get back to the bigs after very brief stints with the Royals in '11 and '12. Pina's wife and mother convinced him to stick it out, and now he's a Gold Glove candidate swinging a league average stick for a contender.
Austin Bibens-Dirkx, RHP, Rangers
Not going to tell you Bibens-Dirkx's stats (4.98 ERA, 1.29 WHIP in 56 innings) are inspiring on their face. But that he's in the big leagues at all is a minor baseball miracle.
Bibens-Dirkx was a 16th-round selection by the Mariners way, way back in 2006, bounced around with five different organizations and endured not one but two career reboots in Independent ball before the Rangers signed him to a Minor League deal in June of 2016. He wasn't in their big-league camp this spring, but Texas kept bringing him into big-league exhibitions to get a look at him. And when the team added him to the Major League roster in May, the lifer with more than 400 professional appearances to his name became a 32-year-old rookie. In bouncing back and forth between long relief and spot starts (including a couple gems against the Nationals and Yankees), he keeps hanging around. And come to think of it, so do the Rangers.
James Hoyt, RHP, Astros
A product of Centenary College of Louisiana, Hoyt went undrafted and left the game to work on sailboats in San Diego. He decided to try out for the Independent Yuma Scorpions in 2011 and made the team coached by none other than Jose Canseco. When the Scorpions folded, Hoyt pitched for two other Independent teams and a Mexican League club in Tabasco. He finally latched on with the Braves on a Minor League deal before the 2013 season, and the Astros received him as part of the 2015 trade for Evan Gattis. Hoyt has had a couple stints with Triple-A Fresno this year, but he might have found his footing with Houston lately. As of this writing, he had allowed just one run in his last eight innings out of A.J. Hinch's 'pen.
A cool wrinkle this weekend: Hoyt's patch on his Players Weekend uniform will salute former big leaguer Tony Phillips, who was on that Yuma team (at 52 years old) and helped arrange for Hoyt to get looks from pro ballclubs.
Dusty Coleman, SS, Padres
If you think this piece has a soft spot for 30-something rookies, you're onto something. Coleman is 30 and suddenly getting a consistent opportunity at short for a Padres team that is obviously in position to take some chances. Coleman has big pop and big K totals, which means he fits right into the modern day Major Leagues. But getting back here was never a sure thing.
Coleman got a cup of coffee (five plate appearances) with the Royals in 2015, which means he got a World Series ring. That was supposed to be the extent of the big-league résumé for a guy who has logged nine professional seasons. But he signed a Minor League deal with the Padres this year, was surprisingly summoned when Erick Aybar got hurt and ripped seven extra-base hits in his first 62 trips to the plate. He won't earn another ring this season, but he has earned another shot to stick.
Whit Merrifield, 2B, Royals
There was a time when it seemed Merrifield's walk-off hit in the 2010 College World Series for South Carolina would be the peak of his baseball career. He was a ninth-round Draft pick, his Minor League career was pretty undistinguished and he was unprotected and unpicked in the Rule 5 multiple times. Even this year, he was optioned back to the Minors out of spring camp when the Royals (briefly) went with Raul Mondesi Jr. for the second-base gig. But now he's on a 20-homer, 20-double pace and is second on the Royals behind Lorenzo Cain in Wins Above Replacement.
Brandon Kintzler, RHP, Nationals
Kintzler was drafted in the 40th round of the 2003 draft by the Yankees and opted to continue his college education. A year later, he was drafted … in the 40th round again, this time by the Padres. A year and a half into his pro career, with his shoulder ailing, Kintzler was dumped by San Diego. He wound up pitching for multiple Independent league teams and was selected to the American Association All-Star Game in 2009. His agent actually implored him to skip the game and honor a contract to play Tim Hudson in the "Moneyball" movie, but Kintzler was adamant about the opportunity to pitch in front of some Major League scouts, and the Brewers wound up signing him after he struck out five of the six batters he faced.
There would be more injury-related setbacks in his future, but Kintzler finally signed with the Twins before 2016, emerged as a reliable relief weapon and now, in the midst of a sensational '17, he's helped morph the Nats' bullpen from a weakness to a strength.
Chris Taylor, UT, Dodgers
Taylor has actually provided more Wins Above Replacement (4.3) than Cody Bellinger (3.9). And while Bellinger is an amazing story in his own right, Taylor didn't have the big-league pedigree or the prospect attention that Bellinger had. Taylor was just a fringe guy -- a former fifth-rounder sent from Seattle to L.A. in a nondescript June 2016 trade who made some swing changes to better handle fastballs and has come out with a .310/.380/.543 slash while batting leadoff for a juggernaut. He had never played outfield before this season, and now he's a regular there for the best team in baseball. Going back to the start of July, he's second only to Giancarlo Stanton in extra-base hits. Taylor's background story might not be quite as extreme as some others discussed here, but his impact has been massive.
Paul DeJong, SS, Cardinals
DeJong wasn't really expected to sniff the big leagues this season, but necessity arose and he came up in late May and quickly became the first Cardinals rookie to start at short and bat third since some guy named Red Schoendienst in 1945.
Not bad for a guy who went undrafted out of high school and wasn't initially offered a baseball scholarship for college. He walked on at Illinois State, and, had his dreams of playing pro ball not panned out, he'd be in medical school right now. Instead, he proved himself worthy of a fourth-round selection by the Cards in 2015, kept producing at the plate while moving around the infield and got the unexpected call to contribute to the big-league cause this season. Now, rather than sweating the MCATs, he's swatting homers (20, at last count) and keeping the Cards in contention.
Anthony Castrovince is a Sports on Earth contributor, MLB Network contributor and MLB.com columnist. Follow him on Twitter @Castrovince.