Thursday, January 18, 2007

MINOR League (The Saga of Tom Brady & The '95 Draft)

Many Americans were riveted to the testimonial offered before Our Lord and Saviour (His Majesty ... DEADSPIN) by that site's associate editor, Rick Chandler, when he info-tained us with his first-person account of his association with three-time Super Bowl champion and super-hunky dreamboat Tom Brady back when the Patriots' QB was a teen in San Mateo.
Indeed, back in the day, Tom Terrific was a teen idol -- before the cleft/crater in his chin had fully developed and either turned on or turned off the girls (and the guys).

Some of us never saw Tom play basketball as a freshman back in the early '90s -- nor did we get a chance to watch him as a senior catcher in the mid-'90s at Junipero Serra High (so named for the Franciscan missionary who greatly impacted 18th-century California).
But, we did see his big sis, Maureen, dominate as a freshman softball pitcher at Hillsdale High.
She was ridiculously great.
And, a nice-lookin' gal, too.
Y'know ... for the early '90s and all.

By the time Tom was establishing an identity on the baseball diamond, the Brady big sisters (Maureen, Julie and the other one whose name we always forget) had carved out quite a legacy. So, while Tom was a mighty-OK b-baller and non-flashy, mistake-free QB, his path to the pros, in the eyes of many, would be as a baseball player.
Particularly when the Montreal Expos drafted Tom in the 18th round.

However, for those of us who scutinize and over-examine such matters, that June of 1995 draft was as fascinating as any other before it or since.
For the Montreal Expos -- the organization which drafted Brady -- the transition from '94 to '95 was a disaster. The team that had a MLB-best 74-40 record when the player's strike occurred stumbled to 66-78 in '95 ... and that's because stars such as Larry Walker, Marquis Grisson, Ken Hill and John Wetteland began the exodus of talent out of Canada and into the Lower 48.

Someone who helped build the early'90s 'Spos was super-scout Gary Hughes ... and it's anyone's guess as to whether his friendship with Serra coach Pete Jensen was a factor in Tom Brady's 18-round selection.
In the 24th round that year, the 'Spos drafted Mike Wolger, a product of the Spring of '91 Serra team (along with Dan Serafini) which won the mythical state title.

Since there was no statewide baseball playoffs in California back then, it looked silly as hell Serra's administration decided to hang a large banner from the rafters in the gym, proclaiming themselves as "state champion" (especially in the Spring of '92 when a public school from San Jose with ZERO baseball tradition -- Mount Pleasant -- beat Serra in the sectional championship game).

Young Tom Brady, though, probably looked up at that banner on several occasions during timeouts of a basketball game against Riordan High and thought to himself, "One day, I'm going to help Serra win another banner to hang from these rafters. That's my goal ... another banner for Padre Pride."
Then, the horn sounded and the timeout was over.
"Tommy ... you're guarding Number 24. D up!"
"Right away, Coach Chandler ..."

Daydreams of gynasiums aside, here's what made that '95 draft fun for the entire family: The football factor.
The No. 1 overall pick was a punter from Nebraska (Darin Erstad) ... the No. 8 overall pick was a southpaw QB who wore #2 at Tennessee (Todd Helton), but whose injury early in the '94 season led to the emergence of a freshman named Peyton Manning ... the No. 26 overall pick was a Stanford QB (Chad Hutchinson), who was drafted by the Braves, but did not sign ... and the player selected one pick after Hutchinson -- by the Yankees -- was a Texas Longhorn QB (Shea Morenz), who lost his starting job late in the '94 season to the more-athletic player, James Brown.

The rounds that followed provided equal intrigue.
In the 8th round, the Phillies drafted a shortstop out of San Diego's Patrick Henry High named Ricky Williams (yeah ... THAT Ricky Williams).
In the 15th round, the Angels chose outfielder Darren Hooper out of Aragon High -- a tough-as-nails RB w/ good speed who prepped at the high school located approx. one mile from Serra on the Alameda de las Pulgas (Boulevard of the Fleas).
In the 19th round, the Tigers selected Lawyer Milloy, an outfielder for the University of Washington (and a future Super Bowl-ring-wearing teammate of Tom Brady).
In the 25th round, the Yankees chose pitcher Danny Kanell from Florida State.
One round later, the Yanks selected an outfielder from Vanguard High in Ocala, Fla. -- Daunte Culpepper.

Flashing back 11 1/2 years sure makes ya reacquaint yourself with so many hits and misses from high schoolers and young collegians bidding to make it to "The Show."
For somebody like Morenz, his dream ended in the minors when chronic shoulder problems (rotator cuff, etc ...) forced him to hang it up in '99.
Ricky Williams ... he batted .188 in 84 games (with 3 HR and 20 RBI) for the '96 Piedmont Boll Weevils, then, knocked nobody's socks off by hittin' .206 in 37 games for the '97 Boll Weevils.
Was it the ganja, was it the dreads ... we'll never know -- but it didn't deter Williams from rippin' up the gridiron for the Hook 'Em Horns in the autumn of '98.

Ah yes, 1998 ... the summer in which the Phillies made Pat Burrell the overall No. 1 pick -- a selection which was awarded to them when their overall No. 1 pick from the previous draft, J.D. Drew, refused to sign.
Three years earlier -- in that historically-intriguing '95 draft -- the Boston Red Sox used a 43rd-round choice on Burrell, who had just concluded his athletic/academic career at Bellarmine Prep in San Jose where he oftentimes squared off against Brady in critical West Catholic Athletic League showdowns.
Burrell did not to sign with Boston, opting instead to play third base for the Miami Hurricanes.

Funny thing about Miami -- that was the site of the Tom Brady's final game at Michigan, a zany, 35-34, overtime win over Alabama in the Orange Bowl.
In the aftermath of that victory, Tom likely thought to himself, "Winning an Orange Bowl during my senior season ... does it get any better than that? I get to wear a ring around campus with the inscription 'Michigan Wolverines, 2000 Orange Bowl Champions.' I could even show it to the guys at the NFL Combine ... that is, show it to the players from less-fortunate schools which didn't get to play in the Orange Bowl."
Tom Brady got his Orange Bowl ring by outdueling 'Bama's Shaun Alexander ... and by completing a bunch of passes to David Terrell, who was routinely abusing DB Milo Lewis (from Mountain View, Calif.).
It would NOT be the final bowl game of Tom Brady's career.

That span of '98/'99/'00, as it turned out, was the beginning of the end for Ryan Minor -- a 7th-round selection of the Mets during that '95 June draft.
Ryan Minor's destiny as Cal Ripken's replacement as the O's everyday third baseman was not coming to fruition, basically, because Ryan Minor struggled mightily against MLB pitching.

While Tom Brady was becoming a CinderFella story, Ryan Minor was making the riches-to-rags transition. Baltimore had drafted Minor initially out of high school (Hammon, Okla.) in the 15th round in '92, the same year in which they spent the No. 4 overall pick on Jeffrey Hammonds of Stanford.
Minor, though, never signed with the O's out of high school because, as you may recall, he was a budding basketball star. After two years of playing for the Oklahoma Sooners under Billy Tubbs, Minor flourished during his junior and senior seasons ('94-'95 and '95-'96).
If you remember his game, it was easy to see how the 6-6 swingman was a first-team All-America in '95-'96. He was versatile, a good shooter, quick enough to play solid D and rebounding was stout.
Ryan Minor was a complete player (22.5 ppg and 8.0 rpg during his final two years).

Oddly enough, in that '95 draft, Minor's twin brother, Damon, was also selected by the Mets -- only Damon went in the 19th round.
Funny thing is, the San Diego Padres drafted "another" Damon Minor -- this one an outfielder with Green River CC in Washington state -- but, we never heard from him again.
Maybe Damon Minor had Damon Minor "rubbed out" in a "this town ain't big enough for two Damon Minors" scenario.

Neither Ryan Minor nor his twin brother Damon Minor (not the other Damon Minor) signed with the Mets. Maybe they over-estimated their worth -- after all, the twins were sophomores who, along with pitchers Russ Ortiz (drafted by the Giants in the 4th round in '95) and Bucky Buckles were the stars of the Sooners' '94 College World Series championship team.
Ryan Minor might've been in no rush to sign with the Mets because, with a year remaining for b-ball and baseball at OU, he could leverage an NBA career against a future in The MLB.

Less than two weeks after the 76ers selected Minor with the third pick of the 2nd round of the '96 NBA draft (the Sixers chose Allen Iverson No. 1 overall), Ryan Minor was chosen in the (gulp!) 33rd round by the Orioles.
If Minor fancied himself going in the first round of the NBA draft, he might've scratched his head and wondered about who the 76ers selected with their second 1st-round pick -- forward Mark Hendrickson out of Washington State.
What made that ironic was that Hendrickson, a 6-foot-10, lefty pitcher, was a 16th round pick of the Tigers in that '95 draft. After playing for four sluggish seasons for four NBA teams, the Blue Jays picked Hendrickson in the 20th round of the '97 draft.
After a dazzling 10-15 record for the Jays in '04, Hendrickson split last year with Toronto and the Dodgers, posting a 6-15 mark.

So, while the '95 June draft is an afterthought for Tom Brady, it makes some of us wonder (out loud), "Where the hell did it all go wrong for you, Ryan Minor?"
And what's your story, Danny Kanell?
Ryan Minor -- currently a minor-league coach in Lancaster, Pa. -- was a can't-miss guy in two sports who, ummmm ... missed in both.
Shea Morenz and Daunte Culpepper never had a miscommunication in right-center field in Yankee Stadium wherein the outfielders converged, but failed to take charge on that fly ball by Red Sox star Lawyer Milloy which eventually led to a pair of unearned runs which cost hard-luck Yankee starter Danny Kanell a W.

If it makes ex-outfielders Shea and Daunte feel any better, many hardcore fans of the New York Football Giants definitely gave Danny Kanell the business with unimaginable profanity, invectives and good, ol' fashioned boos when Kanell was struggling to move the home team inside Giants Stadium in East Rutherford during his days there ('96-'98).

So, the happy side is that Danny Kanell did have New York fans buzzing.
That's what matters ...

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