Monday, January 24, 2011

MiLB LIFE: Draft Day

It's the day that you dream about as a Little Leaguer. A day when years of hard work come to fruition - when Big League fantasies suddenly seem tangible. A day when you look back on a lifetime of baseball as merely the beginning.

Day one of the MLB first-year player draft had finally come. After weeks of answering questions from family, friends, and local newspapers about my expectations for the future, it was finally out of my hands. I was a spectator like everyone else. The process was starting - there was nothing more I could do.

Knowing that the first day of the draft only covered the first round picks - and that I would most definitely not be one of those called - I enjoyed the day one coverage free of stress. I watched as lives changed, boys turned into millionaires, and bright-eyed kids became the face of an organization's future. Pretty powerful stuff.

Day two of the Draft came the next day, and although I reminded myself it was out of my hands and vowed to clear my mind and get out of the house, I found myself glued to the computer. Ten rounds went by, and I was no closer to getting paid to play baseball. Friends of mine had gotten picked, and I immediately sent out their congratulatory text messages. I was happy for them, there was no jealousy - they were the bigger prospects, I was new to the scene. I was still just happy to be there, and it helped when they responded with words of encouragement.

I turned up the volume on the computer and headed into the TV room for some relaxation - perhaps trying to take my mind off of my uncertain baseball future, but knowing full well that whatever program I was watching would take a backseat to the voice of the draft's conference call blasting from the other room.

Another ten rounds went by - no sign of a baseball future. The amount of times I checked my phone despite not hearing a ring or vibration was embarrassing - did I not have service?

Maybe baseball had passed me by. After all, I had only really started for one full college season - sure, it was a successful season, but maybe that wasn't enough. Perhaps all of the support from my family and friends was merely wishful thinking or far-fetched forms of flattery. It seemed as though a desk job was looming in my future - I just felt silly that I had gotten my hopes up and allowed myself to believe this dream of mine would come true.

The next nine rounds went by, and according to the Draft emcee, I didn't exist. Day two was finished, and as far as I was concerned, so was my baseball career. Sure there were twenty rounds left, but after hours of listening to almost a thousand names get called without hearing your own, you begin to have your doubts. You analyze the crop of friends, teammates, and opponents picked before you. Hit a bomb off that kid. Hit 40 points higher than him. That kid? Oh come on, he's awful!

I was disappointed, but there were twenty rounds left and I was a good ballplayer - I settled down and went to bed hopeful for day three.

The third day of the draft came and I once again turned on the computer. Unlike the first round where five minutes are allotted between picks, names were called out rapidly. All thirty teams were on the conference call, and at this point in the draft, organizations are just reading off a list of their "best available." Another round had passed. No luck. Another round. Nothing. You gotta be kidding me.

The draft's round was somewhere in the mid-30's when my phone rang for the first time in what seemed like a week. I looked at the screen eagerly, and had never been so disappointed to get a call from my buddy.

"Hey, any word?"
"Nothin' yet."

I put the phone down and it started vibrating again instantly. I looked again, and the name of a scout I had spoken to in the Fall flashed across my screen. Holy crap. I answered.

After re-introducing himself, the scout informed me that his team was planning on picking me in the upcoming round, but they wanted him to confirm two things since I was a senior: 1) I wanted to play baseball, and 2) I realized that late-round seniors have no leverage and usually don't receive much of a signing bonus.

I happily assured him that all I wanted was an opportunity. We exchanged congratulations and thank you's, and then it was back to the computer to see if it was actually real. Two minutes later, I heard my name announced over the loud speaker.

Suddenly I didn't care what round it was or how many guys got picked before me - I was going to get paid to play baseball. My whole baseball career flashed before my eyes - playing catch with my Dad in the backyard, senior day in college, and everything in between.

Calls came flooding in, and although I was home alone at the time, there were plenty of people sharing in the excitement. I restrained myself when a FedEx guy came to the door with a package. "How's it going?" he asked.

"Pretty good."

Baseball had been a big part of my life for as long as I could remember, and it was going to continue to be. Day three of the MLB Draft changed my life, and regardless of what happens, it's a pretty cool first job.

MiLB LIFE Series
Long Distance Relationships

Pitchers' Batting Practice
The Clubhouse Barber
Extended Spring Training
Big League Picture Day
"The Manager Wants to See You"
First Day of Spring Training [Part One]
First Day of Spring Training [Part Two]
Packing for Spring Training
The Dip Police
Do You Have an Agent?
How Long Until You're in the Bigs?
Being a Senior Sign
Universal Big League Dreams
Explaining My Profession to Non-Baseball Minds
Bus Rides
Wasted Hat Collection
Draft Day
Dealing with Heckling Fans
Clubhouse Rules
Drug Testing
Being the New Guy
Fat Camp
My First Call-Up
A Typical Game Day [Part One]
A Typical Game Day [Part Two]
Being the 'K-Man'
A Taste of the Minor League Off-Season
New Helmets Issued, Players Respond: "Are You Joking?"
The Fines of Kangaroo Court
Kangaroo Court

1 comment:

  1. Great story, dude! I would have read it and been on the edge of my seat the whole time even if it was 30,000 words!