Every June, the annual Draft conjures up a lot of memories for those of us who entered professional baseball that way.
I was drafted in 1998 by Toronto. It was obviously an exciting day. But it was also the culmination of months of tension and anxiety. In the year leading up to the Draft, I heard a lot of speculation as to where I would go and what teams were talking to me.
The year I was drafted (1998) we had a lot of scouts watching our team (Cal State-Los Angeles). It had more to do with a pitcher we had who was really good and was selected earlier than I was. Some of the scouts came to my school to see him and that actually helped me out quite a bit, too.
What I took out of the Draft day experience is that there are no guarantees. I had talked to a number of teams and one of the teams that I had not talked to, Toronto, picked me. On top of that, I got drafted as a pitcher and I hadn't even pitched in college. There are strange things that can happen on Draft day, but it is obviously a very exciting day for a lot of good, young players.
On the day of my Draft, I was sitting at home. We made the decision not to do anything else that day and my dad and I sat around and waited to see what would happen. The phone eventually rang, and that's when my pro baseball journey started.
Prior to Toronto calling, I was getting other calls from other teams. They were basically gauging my interest. I just told them to draft me because I wouldn't be hard to sign. Playing pro baseball was something I always wanted to do. About four hours into the process, Toronto finally called me.
When that phone call did come, the biggest emotion I felt was relief. I was waiting all day for the phone to ring and it finally did at 6 p.m. I was more relieved than anything else and all I could say was, "Thank goodness."
Entering pro ball, my goal was to get to where I am today. But again, my situation was a little different because they said they needed me as a left-handed pitcher and I responded back that I had not been a pitcher in five years.
I didn't think I could do it. During my first pro game, though, our designated hitter got injured and they put me in. That was it for my pitching career.
The goal, even going back to that day, was the big leagues, but I knew that I had to take it one step at a time.
Outfielder Jay Gibbons, who made his big-league debut with the Orioles in 2001, was originally selected by Toronto in the 14th round of the 1998 First-Year Player Draft after a standout three-year college career at Cal State-Los Angeles. Gibbons joined the Orioles organization in December 2000 after getting selected in the Rule 5 Draft. He has played more than 700 career games with Baltimore.
MLBPLAYERS.com is the official Web site of the Major League Baseball Players Association. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.