FINDING MUDVILLE: Remembering the draft

  • Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Major League Baseball held its annual June draft last week. I didn’t watch.
The draft did not bring the best of times for me. It killed my Big League Baseball Fantasy. At 18, I didn’t know baseball was a business. I found out otherwise in a hurry.
Back in the 1970s, the draft was cloaked in secrecy, with results not being released to the press for up to a week. This allowed time for scouts to swoop in and sign players before the college recruiters could talk them out of it.
I’ve recounted the stories of my high school days leading up to getting drafted by the Cubs ad nauseam, which I think is Latin for saying I’ve told the story so much it makes you sick to your stomach.
A week before the draft I attended a pre-draft tryout camp with the Reds in Riverfront Stadium, which I was told meant the Reds were interested in drafting me. This was where Pete Rose and Johnny Bench played and here I was standing on the mound in front of 50,000 empty seats.  After the camp I watched as the scouts pulled players aside to talk about the upcoming draft and I wasn’t one of them.
This was my first clue that Cincinnati did not intend to draft me and my first hard lesson learned about life in professional sports. The Reds brass didn’t care whether they hurt my feelings when they said, “Go on home,” after the tryout, or instilled a sense of paranoia that hasn’t abated to this day. It’s not being paranoid if they’re really out to get you – the Cubs cut a guy as he got off the plane in front of me barely 24 hours after they signed him to a minor league contract.
Two days before the draft the Los Angeles Dodgers said I’d go somewhere around the fourth round – I didn’t. My second hard lesson about life as a professional: these guys lie.
I remember when June 6 came and went without a phone call.
Day Two of the draft came and went without a phone call.
On Day Three about 3:30 in the afternoon I said nuts to it all and took a shower. That’s when they called.
So I talked to a scout from the Chicago Cubs standing in the middle of the kitchen with a towel wrapped around my waist. Not the Reds, or the Dodgers, or the Phillies, or any of the other 20 teams out there.
It was the Cubs, and I hated the Cubs. I even said so on TV three days later, my Kodak moment for sure.
I got drafted on a Friday, graduated from high school on a Saturday, signed on Sunday and by Monday at noon I was standing on a baseball diamond in Bradenton, Florida in 98-degree heat.
To this day, I’m still not sure what happened.
So I watched the draft and remembered the day I was drafted 37 years ago. While the dream of playing professional sports flip-flopped between dream and nightmare depending on the day, looking back I did get to do what few baseball players were given the opportunity to do.
Whether I performed well or not is moot these days as the older I get the better I used to be.
You watch, by the time I turn 65, I’ll be writing here about the time I struck out Babe Ruth.
And expect you to believe it, too.

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