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The day I became a pro baseball player

June 9, 2009

Draft Day, 1986 (AKA the last January Draft ever). So there I am, sitting in the hallway of the men’s dorm at Yavapai Junior College. Why you might ask? Because the draft has started, and I have heard I’m potentially getting drafted.

Patience is not a virtue to me. Hell, it’s not something I’m even remotely familiar with.

I sat by the phone all morning long, into the afternoon. I waited, waited, and waited some more. I had known all winter I was on ‘the list’, but I had no idea who’s list, and where.

My roommate (and eventual JC Player of the Year Brian Deak) was a sure-fire pick, and a high one at that. I skipped classes (a not all too uncommon occurrence for me back then considering I knew if I was drafted in the 400th round I was signing) on draft day, sat by the phone and waited.

Worst part is I can’t even remember the phone call. I know it came in the afternoon sometime, and it was the Red Sox. Red Sox??? Damn, I was hoping like hell my favorite team (the Pirates) had drafted me.

Ray Boone, the scout who recommended me, called me, I think. I am not sure I can remember or explain the feeling, but I know it was a good one. The Sox had taken me in the second round. This was the same
winter draft Jeff Shaw went first, and Moises Alou was drafted. We went on to have a storybook season, getting all the way to the JC World Series in Grand Junction Colorado. It was one of my favorite teams and years of all time.

Deak was JC Player of the year, hitting 40 HR and driving in like 200 runs. We had Brad Hebbets at first, Tim Stanley (funniest man ever and a future Montreal Expo) at second, Pat Swift at SS (was the guy on 2nd when Deak hit the walk off HR to win the regional tourney!) Paul Wegner, Albert Mendibles at third (gold glover), Danny Diaz, Kelly Clairmont, Bradi Brogni (still a close friend and one of the most talented players I ever
played with. Also the longest home run off me and has the biggest nose ever…) and one of my best friends ever, Ty Van Dyke. Ty was the guy who went to Iraq last year with me. In 23 years of pro ball I still talk to fewer teammates than I do from the JC team. It was that fun.

Paul Wilhemlsmen, tallest LHP ever (including RJ!) Gary Weems, Danny Rodriguez (who had the plaque) and some other incredibly talented guys.  We were coached by “Coach Kemp” — great guy and someone who didn’t think I was as funny as I thought I was — and managed by one of my all time favorite people, Dave Dangler. A man who came along at a huge time in my life and inserted just enough discipline to keep me out of jail for that one year away from home. He basically told me that winter that I was “pitching for dollars” and it was no longer just a game. He was right. I’ll be forever thankful of his mentoring me at a time when I needed it.

So we had this great year, went to the World Series, and lost to Brevard in the semi-finals in a rip off… a sham! Then lost to eventual winners San Jacinto.

I’d love to tell you this long drawn out story about negotiations, but it didn’t happen. Baseball was all I knew, and all I wanted. I signed less than an hour after the game ended. I vaguely remember Mr. Boone
calling me and letting me know they were going to offer me 15K to sign, and I came back and said I wanted 25K, and he said “Good luck in college next year.

That was the extent of the negotiations.

I signed right then, right there. We bussed home to Prescott the next day. Deaker and I drove home
to Phoenix that night (and ran out of gas about an hour from home) in the “new” Jeep CJ7. I bought it from Ty, and it was a heap, but it looked cool!

The next day I was packed, and on a plane to the lovely city of Elmira, New York, and my career began about two weeks later in my first professional start of my career, against the St. Catherine’s Blue Jays.

Not really all that glamorous, but man it was to me.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. ToofarawayfromBoston permalink
    June 9, 2009 1:55 pm

    Curt, we live in Reading, PA and had season tickets to the R-Phils for several years. (economics have halted that for now) Anyway, one of the joyous things was watching the kids from A-ball make it to AA-ball and see them play their hearts out in hopes of making it to the majors. I have had the opportunity to see some serious talent go through this city and upward into the majors. I am sure you are well aware of the Phillies ability to draft well and find exceptional talent. ; ) All these young faces with dreams of playing MLB… It’s a dream for so many young men and draft day is not the beginning of that dream, but it is a huge event in their lives. We will be watching when the draft starts today. I am sure there are a lot of “Curt Schillings” out there who will, just like you did, be waiting by that phone – and when that call comes, right afterward, won’t be able to remember what was said, because they will be so happy.

    Here’s to a great day in the lives of some very hopeful young men…

    Chaiah

  2. Rhayader permalink
    June 9, 2009 2:00 pm

    Awesome story Curt, thanks for sharing. Any thoughts on writing a book some day?

    I don’t know if anyone else has seen it yet, but the movie “Sugar” is a cool story about a Dominican pitcher being drafted and joining a minor league team in Bridgetown, Iowa. The baseball action is a bit stiff, but its an interesting story of trying to break into pro ball.

    Anyway, thanks again Curt, stuff like this is a ton of fun to read.

  3. Gary from Chapel Hill permalink
    June 9, 2009 2:27 pm

    I knew I remembered Brian Deak from the two seasons that he played in Durham! Too bad he never quite made it.

    Dave Dangler? That’s his real name?

    Seriously, though, I’ve talked to several parents over the last few weeks who have sons that have just finished their junior or senior seasons in college who are planning to watch/listen to all 50 rounds in hopes that they will hear their son’s name called because their sons have told them that they “talked to a scout”. I wish them all good luck, but I’m afraid that they are going to be disappointed for the most part.

  4. NHBill permalink
    June 9, 2009 10:14 pm

    Your dream of playing for the Pirates make me mourn the state of the game in Pittsburgh. One of the greatest sports cities in the country has for too long suffered with a sorry team. The Pirates have reasonable support under the circumstances. If they could ever compete the way The Rays did Pittsburgh would once again remind American what a great baseball city it is.

  5. Amy Condoluci permalink
    June 10, 2009 2:09 pm

    THAT was a great story Curt, thanks for sharing. I’m going to have Justin read that one when he gets home from school. You’ve certainly inspired him!

  6. Scott Levison permalink
    June 13, 2009 9:27 am

    Curt…

    Great story.

    So was Ray Boone right there after the draft to sign you, since you said you were signed an hour after the fact? I take it you did NOT have an agent back then?

    I’d love tp hear more stories like this..it;s the ol’ History major in me 🙂

    Thanks!

  7. PerryC permalink
    June 13, 2009 8:37 pm

    ““Coach Kemp” — great guy and someone who didn’t think I was as funny as I thought I was”

    A man of refined taste. 😉

  8. June 15, 2009 8:04 am

    Curt,

    Musta been interesting to come full circle and end where you started (kinda).

    Bet you wish you had somewhere to sign up and win a free Sox t-shirt! (www.4sportboston.com)

  9. Jason permalink
    June 17, 2009 9:46 pm

    Curt,

    Good story, but it makes me wonder how/why things have changed so much since then. Now kids are getting drafted, and holding out for millions of dollars. Its obvious that baseball is a big business now, and there is more money floating around, but what happen to going and pitching in the minors to earn your way into the bigs. Now days kids are getting drafted and signed to contracts that set them up for life before ever throwing a big league pitch. To me its a little sad, but I guess it is what it is. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Tyler permalink
    June 18, 2009 10:43 pm

    Were you surprised at your spot in the draft (2nd round)?

  11. jasontest permalink
    June 19, 2009 1:43 am

    testing

  12. DeniseSoxFan permalink
    June 19, 2009 6:49 am

    Great story, Curt! Thanks for sharing. I remember being glad to get Mike Boddicker (sp?) but wondering if we’d wish someday that we had you back. Seems like things worked out very well all the way around! Love ya, man!
    Denise

  13. George permalink
    June 19, 2009 5:56 pm

    Was at the game where you pitched a 2-0 shutout [Philadelphia} World Series. Scalped the ticket at price sat behind home plate 2nd level and will never forget it.

    Grew up watching Mike Schmidt and Lefty Named my 2 boy’s after baseball payers Carlton and Schmidt Steven Michael even though I was George the III and my youngest Brett after George Brett.

    So I seen a lot of philly ball and you are the Man!!!

    Thanks for the memories.

    Yours truly,

    George III Number 1 Curt Schilling Philly Fan!!!

    Also play Squad Leader…You know what I’m talking about….

  14. July 8, 2009 8:55 am

    Great story Curt. We are all happy you made your way to the Red Sox!

  15. Supai2Bman permalink
    November 20, 2009 12:40 pm

    OK…so let me get this straight…Buddy’s Market still exists today! That’s hard to believe. Nowhere do you mention John Alexander(A.K.A. the Chocolate Easter Bunny). Come on, Shill. APBA still rules.

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