ed. Running alongside our Venezuelan series, we're going to approach the journey from amateur ball to professional ball from the angle of an American born player. Who else better to recount his tales than our own Craig Baker? Stay up with us in the next several weeks while Craig tells about each of his stops in the minors.
June 6th, 2006
Agent Jon: "Congratulations man!"
Me: "On what?"
Agent Jon: "Are you listening to the draft? Rockies took you with the second pick of the 4th round. Are you really not listening to it?"
Me: "My parents were giving me a panic attack every time I wasn't selected the first 3 rounds, so I went to grab some breakfast."
That is where my Colorado Rockies career began, at Taqueria Rancho Grande in Hemet, California. From there I am not sure if the commissioner's office sent out a mass text or e-mail to my friends but my cell phone began to blow up. Oddly, the only people I didn't hear from in the first two hours were the Colorado Rockies.
I began to wonder if they really had drafted me, so I returned home to check the computer for myself. I was told by my agent that they did draft me, but with draft day being so hectic, they would reach out to me sooner or later.
The call eventually did come. It was a three minute call, mostly confirming what everyone had been telling me and assuring me that I'd be contacted again soon. After two days of being patient, I was informed that my scout would be over in the next couple days so I could sign my contract and give me further instruction. As a signing gift, he brought a XXXL Purple "Trash Bag" (Batting Practice Top) and some velcro Rockies hats.
After the initial shock wore off that I had in fact been selected, I began to wonder "Why did the Rockies pick me?". I had only met with my area scout Jeff Hipps once or twice, whereas I had met with other teams like the Cardinals and Yankees several times. After meetings with each team and piles of paperwork to fill out, I had to wonder how the process worked for each organization. I am sure there is a lot more that goes into those packets and meetings, but for the life of me, I'll never know how it all works.
Despite the surprise and pondering "Why the Rockies?", I was ecstatic just to have been drafted. I had the chance to try and make my dream of playing in the Major Leagues come true. I wasn't completely familiar with the Rockies organization, and by "completely", I mean "at all". I knew about the ToddFather, Sir Troy Tulowitzki, and of course The Big Cat, but after a select few names, I was just as in the dark as my friends when it came to the Rockies.
"Why weren't you drafted by the Angels?"
"Why weren't you drafted by the Dodgers?"
"Why weren't you drafted by the Padres?"
Those were the questions I was continually asked. My friends were thrilled that I had been drafted, and excited that I was given the opportunity, but they couldn't help but mention that our "hometown" teams weren't the ones that picked me. I think that they were kidding, but the majority of our conversations concluded with: "I hope you do well man, just not against the _________ (insert Angels, Dodgers or Padres here)".
Either way, the thrill of being drafted and the lifestyle change I was going to soon be experiencing was an exciting time for my family, my friends, and myself. I never did get to pitch at Angel Stadium, or any other "hometown" ballpark, but the fact that I had my foot in the door was a blessing all in its own.
That blessing somehow included a prop engine plane and a small airport in Asheville, North Carolina. My new "hometown" ballpark was McCormick Field.