Athletics outfielder Grant Desme has retired to become a Catholic priest. A's farm director Keith Lieppman confirmed that Desme, who led the Arizona Fall League with 11 home runs en route to MVP honors, has given up the game.
Lieppman said Desme called A's general manager Billy Beane earlier in the week to inform him of his decision. Lieppman, who has since spoken with Desme, said the organization respects Desme's decision but will miss him on the field.
"To do that when you are at the top of your game, it's a powerful thing, and the organization has to respect that," Lieppman said. "Somebody will step up, somebody will take advantage of the opportunity they may not otherwise have gotten, but he will not be easy to replace. With the tools he has, he had tremendous potential. But I would imagine his potential is equally great on this new path considering his commitment."
Desme, 23, was the only player in the minor leagues to post a 30-30 season last year, with 31 homers and 40 stolen bases between low Class A Kane County and high Class A Stockton. It was the first full season for the 2007 second-round pick out of Cal Poly, who had missed most of his debut year and 2008 with wrist and shoulder injuries.
Desme ranked eighth on Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects for the Oakland organization.
In a conference call with media Friday afternoon, Desme said he was joining St. Michael's Abbey in Orange County in California, and said he was embarking on a 10-year process to become a member of the abbey. He said he made his decision soon after the Fall League ended, and visited St. Michael's soon thereafter. He called Beane on Thursday to break the news to him.
"Billy's reaction was great. He was very understanding and supportive," Desme said. "I think he was surprised, I think it knocked him off his horse a bit."
Desme said his 2008 season, when he missed all but two games of the season with a separated shoulder. "My injuries were the biggest blessing God has given me," he said. "In a way baseball had become my idol . . . When it was taken away, it was an eye-opener."
Desme had indicated in past interviews that his religious faith was a significant part of his life. In an article published Jan. 12 in Bakersfield Life magazine, Desme said, "Reflecting on the past year I have a lot to be thankful for. My family and I are healthy, I was able to make some quality friendships, and I was blessed with a successful season. My hope for the next year is that my family and I will continue to grow in our faith and charity. I usually am not too big on making New Year’s resolutions since they rarely make it the full year, so I would like to continue to work hard every day on improving myself and growing in my faith."
In a 2007 interview with BA's Conor Glassey (who did not work for BA at the time), Glassey asked Desme, "What do you like to do when you're not playing baseball? What is something unique about yourself?" Desme's reply was, "Above all, my faith comes first and I dedicate myself to church."
Then this fall, BA's Bill Mitchell interviewed Desme during his torrid AFL, and Desme said his time away from the game made him realize there was more to life than baseball.
"I'm very thankful it happened to me," said Desme, in reference to the separated shoulder that sidelined him for most of 2008. "I think it needed to be. As a person, baseball was really the one and only thing in my life. With the injuries, it kind of put everything in perspective. There are much bigger things in life. Baseball could be taken from you at any moment . . . You step on the field and that could be your last game. There are a lot of other things that matter more . . . baseball's just a game."
And for Desme, his last game apparently was the Nov. 21 AFL championship game.