There will be ratings and scouting. Development success and setbacks. Those that can’t get the mental aspect of the professional game and others still who realize they lack the physical tools to make this dream a reality. The story doesn’t end with stardom or bust, there are many who will carve out a niche and success will be measured in a different way.
Some will ascend like Andrew McCutchen, who is still in the midst of his career story. The talent on the field pales only by the person he is off the field. Pittsburgh is not longer where he works, but it has become his home and we’re a better community for it.
The ultimate example of a player rising above everything they did on the field is probably Birthday Boy Steve Blass. He was a champion, yeah, that’s part of the story, but he became possibly the greatest ambassador for Pittsburgh Pirates baseball that ever lived. How many can say they won a World Series here and then went on to call games for parts of 4 decades?
Who knows, maybe in 2043 we’ll be talking about Travis Swaggerty joining the galactic broadcast network (I hear they won’t black out games out of market), the point is you aren’t just drafting a player, you’re drafting someone who will become part of the franchise story.
When you think of it like that it almost makes sense the Kyle Stark put so much emphasis on the non-baseball aspects of growth. OK, I’m done, back to that being silly.
Craig and I have been blessed to talk to and write about a bunch of players in our time covering the Pirates, and you can tell some have that Blass Ambassador gene baked in from the word go. Others prefer to let their game do the talking, and that’s great, there’s room for both and need for both.
Some like Doug Drabek will go on to coach the game, others will become scouts evaluating talent and no doubt calling back to their own experiences to make the process better and more effective.
There is no nice way to say this, some won’t make it, that’s just reality. In fact, most won’t make it. But, bust is a bit strong. Many of the players chosen this season will play a huge role in the development of those picked 15 years from now. A baseball life is non-linear and putting everyone into a pass/fail bucket isn’t seeing the whole picture.
The draft brings hope of renewal and a freshness to the entire system. Last year’s picks become the grizzled veterans (some still struggling to sport facial hair mind you) on the Single A squads that our friend Rob wants so desperately to pare back. They look up to the draft picks from 3 or 4 seasons ago who are just starting to nip at the heels of cracking a major league roster.
One day soon for the first time a kid with cotton candy stains all over their jersey will reach out with excitement and a baseball to beg someone young enough to remember themselves doing the same thing for an autograph. For some, it will be the first of many. Soon their signature will become little more than a scribble, others will come to grips with how rare this opportunity actually is and will sign everything like they’re handing in a thesis at the end of a master’s program.
Baseball is a journey and its different for everyone, for many it begins right here with the draft. The talent will be right there in black and white, but the ability to marry the talent with the want to is where the rubber hits the road.
Good luck to all the 2020 MLB Armature Draft Picks!