The day I became a pro baseball player
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.