The place was empty now. Long devoid of the clatter of metal on cold cement and last minute, rapid fire, questions whose answers never seemed to quell the thirst of writers whose very jobs depended on the tidbits and rumors they pried from those who made their job seem necessary. “Slug” Morgan sank back into the all too forgiving comfort of his old leather chair. The smell in the clubhouse the same now as it was the first day he arrived. Seven years of wear and tear had not yet ruined the one place he could relax and think with a clear mind. His boys had come close again. Third time in seven years. His boys. They were finally coming into their own.
Was it luck or was it foresight that had predominated that fateful day in ’97? Draft day. Franchise hour. The calculated selection of rag-tag talent that, hopefully, would someday amount to a decent collection of ballplayers. The beginning of the team that would be worthy of the moniker, Virginia Sluggers. Thirteen players still remained with the club to this day. Thirteen! And seven of those thirteen had been starters for most of those years.
As he looked back, “Slug” slowly shook his head in wondered amazement. Thome was the first, number 18 if “Slug” remembered correctly. A third baseman back then he had now ensconced himself as a deadly DH. Right behind him at number 19, the kid Pettitte. A crafty lefthander that Seaver had liked and highly recommended. Thanks Tom. Reynolds was taken at 54. Solid at the time he was now on the shadowed side of a decent career. “Slug” leaned forward for a moment, and in one effortless motion flicked open his cooler and loosed a longneck from its cold confines. The 4th round pick, number 55, was a young man destined for stardom. Nomar Garciaparra. What a joy it was for “Slug” to watch this kid play in a style reminiscent of the old days. As quickly as his mind began a melancholy slide toward the past, the venue closed and a slow , satisfying smile crept across “Slug’s” face as he recalled the 90th pick. Vladimir Guerrero. Vlad had more talent than anyone “Slug” had seen in years. A force at the plate as well as in the field, Guerrero would be a bane to pitchers for years to come.
“Slug” raised the longneck to his eager lips. Speizio was the 91st pick. A versatile player who seemed to get hot in the second half, Speizio had been a solid acquisition. Tucker and Flaherty had come next. One at 127 the other at 270. Both had seen plenty of playing time and “Slug” knew their value could never be fully appreciated. The other two-thirds of the starting outfield came at picks 307 and 378. “Slug” gave a quick nod of his head and raised his beer-ladened hand in salute. Abreu and Cameron. Put them out there and turn them loose, thought “Slug,” and they could cover more ground than Astroturf ever had. Why they were still hanging around that far into the draft “Slug” hadn’t a clue. Greene was the 379th pick. Injuries had diminished his career but every now and then, that projected power would burst through and remind “Slug” of the potential now so obviously ebbing away.
Somewhere down the hallway a door moaned and “Slug” stopped to listen. Every now and then the old clubhouse just seemed to protest as it gave way to age. “Slug” coaxed another recollection from the half empty longneck. His mind idled for a moment as he pondered who else he still had. He had to go a hundred or more picks before he could remember. Jose Guillen. “Slug” shifted his eyes toward the ceiling and gazed into nothing. Talk about potential. This kid had power written all over him. Had. Expectations and injuries took their toll. Well, there was still time left. “Slug” shifted in the chair, his body stiff and not a stranger to the aches and pains that came with age. His eyes returned to the view down memory lane. One name left. Thirty seventh round. Pick number 666. Gold Glove. Rookie of the Year. MVP. Hall of Famer. Todd Helton. Sometimes the baseball gods show up at strange times. “Slug” was glad they did. As Casey would have said, “Who’d a thunk it?” A player of that caliber very rarely comes from that deep in a draft. “Slug” knew that. “I still do,” he thought to himself as a knowing smile made its way across his face.
“Slug” emptied his bottle of memories in a final swig from his longneck. The shadows from the dark window behind him told him the day was leaving. It was time for him to do the same. He looked around the clubhouse and took in the ambiance of it all. As he rose from the comfort of his past and stood face to face with the present, “Slug” felt a satisfying confidence swell up inside him. Once again he went through the names of the original players he still had. Thome, Pettite, Reynolds, Garciaparra, Guerrero, Speizio, Tucker, Flaherty, Abreu, Cameron, Greene, Guillen, Helton. He shook his head as he flipped off the lights and tossed the empty into the trash. Somewhere ahead of him another day awaited. Another draft, another season. And maybe another talented youngster. “You know,” he thought to himself as he made his way out, “maybe we just had the foresight to be lucky.”

WEDNESDAY 07/24/2024
AT 11:59 PM - ET!