In a self-contradictory manner, I have the same aversion for aphorisms, axioms, adages, and all other types of pithy A-rules that I have for swine flu. Yet somehow I still find myself constantly ensnared by them. One particular adage employed itself as MLB’s amateur draft approached a few years ago:
“If you want something to happen, act as if it won’t happen.”
Preparing for the 2004 draft, I had already started my summer job. Not wanting to anger baseball’s temperamental gods, I didn’t assume anything. School ended in mid-May—I had time on my hands and needed money. A job seemed the logical thing to undertake.
Being drafted seemed likely. I filled out countless surveys for teams, some of which contained over a hundred questions or statements (those psychological profile surveys are a killer). I had met with dozens of scouts for almost every team. I was on the brink of closing out a college season in which I would attain a perfect 11-0 pitching record. Yet I still acted as if being drafted was as likely as morphing into Brad Pitt while traveling on a space shuttle to Mars.
Thus I began my job as a Student Ambassador at the University of Missouri’s Student Success Center. I organized closets, made copies, gave a couple of campus tours, and made a Power-Point presentation explaining what the heck the Student Success Center strove to do. Most importantly, I answered the phone—my phone to be exact.
As the draft grew closer, scouts began calling.
“We’re trying to assess your signability,” they would all say as I snuck into a forgotten corner to talk. “What would it take for you to sign?”
Since I was in my junior year of eligibility, in theory I could rebuff any offer of playing professionally and go back to school. Part of the job of the scout was to assess the likelihood of a refusal.
“Well, it would depend on the round,” I usually vaguely answered.
“What round would it take?” they wanted to know.
“I’m not sure. All I can say is that I want to play and if I’m drafted in a decent round I’ll sign for slot money.”
“What kind of round are we talking about? What kind of money will it take?” they all pressed.
“I don’t know. Where do you see me going?”
Some answered this question, while many decided to match my vagueness. Neither of us wanted to cede too much information to the other side.
“We have you in the five to eight range,” one scout would eventually say.
“I have you around four to six,” another said.
“Probably between six and 10,” another offered.
“Then if I go in these rounds, I’ll sign for slot money,” I told all of them who offered.
Gathering these little tidbits of information comforted me, but nerves still surged like nebulae in the days leading up to the draft. In past years I knew plenty of players who had been told similar things, only to see the decisive day bring them different news. Funny things happen on draft day; nothing is certain until it actually happens.
On June 7, I made an exception to my adage and took a day off from work. My Missouri Tigers’ baseball team had just lost out of NCAA Regional play, and I gathered at the apartment of teammate James Boone to follow the draft.
Watching on television was not an option. Unlike today, no network carried it. Instead, we were forced to listen to a streamed Internet broadcast.
All of us, some standing, some huddled in small chairs or sitting on a bed, intently focused our attention to two small computer speakers on a wooden desk. The first round began and David Purcey became the first Big 12 opponent to have his name called. Josh Fields soon followed. Next came Huston Street as a supplemental pick.
After some time, we finally heard the name of our first teammate.
“The Toronto BlueJays select pitcher Danny Hill,” we heard a voice say in the third round.
“Yeah!” we all screamed.
The fourth round commenced and nervous anticipation came with it. I paced throughout the room, knowing that my time possibly drew close. Then, the unthinkable happened. The Internet went out.
“Frickin’ Al Gore!” somebody said. “Invents a thing that doesn’t even work.”
There was nothing we could do. We couldn’t leave and go somewhere else. We would miss too much. We simply had to wait and hope that it came back in a few minutes.
A few minutes turned into 30 minutes, which felt like hours. Finally I left the little room and went to the refrigerator to grab some water. At this point, my phone rang. I hurriedly answered it and heard the voice of Mizzou’s hitting coach, Evan Pratte.
“Broshuis! Congratulations!!” he immediately said.
“What?! What happened?!”
“You haven’t heard? Fifth round, San Francisco Giants.”
With that, I sat down to take it all in. A huge grin came over my face and a surreal amount of elation, the type of elation only delivered by extraordinary events, surged throughout me.
The baseball gods, perhaps pleased with my “act as if it won’t happen” plan, had rewarded me. An elated blur, the rest of the day was one of the greatest days in my athletic life. And yes, I had to quit my day job.