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Balfour reaches 10-year milestone

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ST. PETERSBURG -- Grant Balfour hit a milestone on Tuesday when he reached 10 years of service time in the Major Leagues.

Prior to Tuesday night's game, Balfour was presented with a cake in the clubhouse commemorating what is a big day for any Major Leaguer.

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Having any significant time in the Major Leagues once appeared like a pipe dream to Balfour, who experienced elbow and shoulder surgeries 4 1/2 months apart in 2005.

"It's been a long road, no doubt," Balfour said. "I talked to a couple of my friends about it. It's not an easy road. It wasn't meant to be easy. It's a great accomplishment to look back and think that you have 10 years in. You don't want to stop there, but it's always a goal that you have as a ballplayer. You set yourself goals, and to reach that goal is big."

Players with 10 years of service time are fully vested in the pension. Balfour acknowledged that was nice, but the other part of the equation seemed to mean more to him.

"You're fully vested in the pension, but just to get that service time in a game like this, which we know isn't easy," Balfour said. "You have to overcome a lot of things in this game, whether it be physical, mental, or whatever it is."

When asked about the highs and lows of his decade of service, Balfour noted that the injuries ranked as the low.

"Those are the tough days," Balfour said. "The Minor Leagues, getting to the big leagues, are tough days, too. Probably more the injuries, though. The not knowing kind of thing. Working hard every day and you're never sure if you're going to get back to where you were. If it's going to come back the same way and you're going to be healthy. For me, I was very lucky it did.

"The highs just being out there in big moments. You know, playoff games and World Series, and being able to jump up and down with your teammates. Celebrate all those special years I had here and Oakland, Minnesota. Just being a part of playing with guys that come here from all over the world. Great players I got to play with. Some great memories. It's a big part of your life."

When asked if it's seemed like 10 years had passed, Balfour smiled.

"Yeah, I'd have to say it does," he said. "I came here when I was 19. Now I'm 36. You can add that up and I spent eight years of that in the Minor Leagues. There's some tough days in the Minor Leagues, no doubt."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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