Sunday, November 01, 2009

In olden days

There was an item in The Boston Globe's sports section today on an old friend of mine. In fact, it was a good reminder about how the sports business has changed over the years, and how old I am.

The item was on a player from Bridgewater, Massachusetts, who is now a pitching coach with the Philadelphia Phillies. I don't know the coach in question, Rich Dubee, but I do know the other Massachusetts player in the story, Glenn Tufts.

Tufts was an absolute terror when it came to high school baseball. I think he hit about .625 in school, playing mostly first base and doing some pitching when needed. He graduated in 1973, which was my senior year in high school as well.

Here's the coincidence: Tufts dated the daughter of my father's best friend. So when my family went up to Massachusetts around the holidays in 1972-73, I had the chance to spend a little time with Glenn. Good guy. In fact, while the grown-ups went out on New Year's Eve, the best friend's kids took over the house for the night. I had the chance to talk to Glenn for quite a while about what it was like to be one of the nation's top high school players. As I recall, he complained about not getting many pitches to hit. And remember, he still hit about .625. I saw him one or two other times as well during trips there.

Now comes the quaint part. Tufts was taken fifth overall in the baseball amateur draft in the summer of 1973. The debate was to take the signing bonus offer from the Cleveland Indians, which probably was something along the lines of $50,000, or to take a full scholarship from the University of North Carolina. The parents argued for college, saying that the education was a good safety net. I recall saying that the bonus wasn't a bad safety net either, and that you could still go to school with some of that money.

My side of the argument won, not that I ever made the case personally, as he signed with the Indians. Unluckily, he had some injury problems -- I think there was an auto accident involved -- and he never did quite fulfill his potential. Tufts stayed in baseball as a career and became a great scout and coach, I believe. But he never did grab the brass ring.

Let's compare that to today. I looked on-line at some recent signing bonuses. The number five pick in 2007's draft was Matt Wieters, taken by Baltimore. He was a special case because he had signing issues, but he eventually agreed to a $6 million bonus with the Orioles. The fourth pick, Daniel Moskos of Pittsburgh, picked up a check for $2.475 million. It's a little tough for the colleges to compete with that.

Sometimes you're just born 35 years too early.

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