"This ol' highway's getting longer
Seems there ain't no end in sight
To sleep would be best but I just can't afford to rest
I've got to ride in Denver tomorrow night."
Chuck Lofgren has sung those lyrics many times as a member of a country music cover band, including one fortunate time on stage with Garth Brooks, the man who wrote "Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)."
In his role as a once-heralded baseball prospect, it could be argued that the Serra High School alum and Redwood City native has lived them while striving to stay on the map with his third organization, the San Francisco Giants.
"It's been a roller coaster, but it's been a lot of fun," Lofgren said during a recent stop in Trenton, N.J., with his Double-A team, the Richmond Flying Squirrels. "The other seasons are in the past, and I'm focused on the future."
The "'ol highway" led directly to Cleveland when the Indians selected Lofgren in the 2004 draft. After a dominating season at Single-A Kinston, the Baseball America 2006 Handbook wrote that he "emerged as one of the top lefthanders in the minors."
Two years later, the 2008 edition speculated that "he could make his big league debut later in the year."
That season ended up being his worst, when he compiled a 2-6 record with a 5.99 ERA in 28 appearances at Double-A Akron and lost his starting job. After going 6-10 with a 5.31 ERA the next year for Columbus (Ohio) in his first extended stay at Triple-A, the Indians left him exposed in the Rule 5 draft, and he eventually landed in the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
The Brewers let him go after one season, which ended up working out well for the 25-year-old, because his hometown San Francisco Giants gave him a shot. He's spent time at three levels of the organization this season and is currently flourishing in Double-A. After throwing 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball in a victory over New Hampshire on Wednesday, Lofgren is now 2-0 with a 0.92 ERA in three starts for Richmond.
"When the Giants gave me the opportunity to pitch for them, it was my dream come true," Lofgren said. "While I'm getting older, I'm still young in this game. I'm only 25, and I feel like I'm pitching well and have to keep going. I always wanted to be a Giant."
Lofgren grew up 50 minutes from Candlestick Park and his idol, Will Clark. His father was a 35-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department and worked on-field security during games, often in front of the Giants dugout.
Despite his northern California roots, Lofgren is a country yokel by most standards. He recently wowed teammates at a karoake restaurant by performing a Tim McGraw song.
"We call him Wild Wild West," Richmond catcher Johnny Monell said. "He wears cowboy boots on days he pitches. He's a country boy."
On that front, he reached the pinnacle a few years ago. As part of Brooks' Teammates for Kids Foundation, Lofgren met the star musician at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. He requested the chance to sing with him, and it happened the next night.
"Besides being drafted, that was the best thing I ever did," said Lofgren, who plays a Seagull six-string guitar. "When you're playing tiny mom and pop shops and dive bars, it's a lot different than getting up there with him."