When Tucson Padres outfielder Travis Buck started in right field for the Oakland A's on opening day in 2007, he was ecstatic.
Baseball America rated him as the top prospect in the Oakland organization, but the start still came as a surprise.
"It was an unbelievable feeling," Buck said before Friday night's 3-0 loss to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox at Kino Stadium.
On that early April day in 2007, first baseman Dan Johnson was injured, shifting Nick Swisher from right field to first and giving Buck his first career major-league start less than two years after he was drafted in the first round out of Arizona State.
He did well, going 1 for 3 with a double off Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, and finished the season with a .288 average, seven home runs and 34 RBIs in 82 games.
By the time Oakland let Buck go in 2010, though, he couldn't wait to get out, a feeling prompted by strained relationships with "people in the organization."
"It turned out to not be a good fit for me," Buck said. "You know, there were times when I was in the big leagues and it wasn't fun. I didn't like coming to the ballpark. Baseball's a game. It's supposed to be fun. I just had that feeling that it was a bad environment for me" in Oakland.
The stress that came with his discontentment led to a number of injuries popping up "out of the blue," and his career has been plagued by them ever since. He recently missed three games due to a "small case of whiplash."
In his six years in the big leagues, including four seasons in Oakland and one each in Cleveland and Houston, he played in 253 games with a .243 batting average.
"You're not playing every day," Padres manager Pat Murphy said, "and you're trying to prove yourself. When you're trying to prove yourself, you're not trying to be yourself. Travis just has to be himself and that's the key: Can you be yourself? I just believe in Travis, and know it's just a matter of time before he hits his stride and gets his opportunity, and I think he'll do well."
Buck is having a solid season for the Padres - .317 average, two home runs, team-leading 17 RBIs before Friday night's game.
But what has impressed Murphy is the leadership role Buck has taken with the younger players, which is a rarity in minor-league baseball.
Buck, 29, wants to get back to the big leagues, and he wants to help his Padres teammates get there too.
"I've been through everything," Buck said. "I've made it to the major leagues, I've been the face of a franchise, and I've had my own bobble head. I've been through a lot of experiences, both good and bad as a player. I understand now how much more this is a business, and I just try to help guys realize that."
• Who: Colorado Springs at Tucson
• When: 7:05 p.m.