By Kiel McLaughlin
It doesn't get the same coverage as the NFL Draft. There is no ESPN slick-talking expert, following each moment of every player's life.
The Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft comes around the first week in June each year, and hundreds of young ballplayers are sitting at home, waiting by the phone for The Call. The Call that makes years of hard work, years of sweating it out on the diamond in the August heat, worth it. The Call that validates all of those hours in the batting cages and dismisses all of Mom's concerns about neglected homework and missed sleep. The Call that is a culmination of a dream come true.
Gavin Floyd was drafted by the Phillies with the fourth overall pick.
Five years ago a pair of neighbors, both graduates of Mount St. Joseph High School, got that call within minutes of one another. Back-to-back All-Metro Player of the Year Gavin Floyd was first to receive The Call from the Philadelphia Phillies making him the fourth selection overall. After getting off the phone with the Phillies, Floyd ran across the street.
Just before his arrival, his friend and former teammate Mark Teixeira received his call. This one came from the Texas Rangers who held the fifth overall pick.
"Surreal is probably an accurate description [of when I see them on TV.]" said MSJ baseball head coach Dave Norton, who has coached the Gaels' Varsity team since 1983.
"To me, they are still Mark and Gavin. He isn't Mark Teixeira the Major League All-Star. He is just a kid. They are just kids and they always will be to me."
After graduating in 1998, Teixeira was selected in the ninth round by the Boston Red Sox. With a scholarship to play for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on the table, Teixeira turned down Boston's paltry $1.5 million offer, realizing he could earn more with some extra experience under his belt.
In three years as a third baseman at Tech, Teixeira compiled an impressive line, posting a .409 batting average with 165 RBIs in just 140 games. As a sophomore, he batted .420 with 16 home runs and 73 RBIs. During his junior year he missed 11 weeks during the middle of the season with a broken ankle. After his return he batted .368 for the remainder of the schedule.
To Norton, however, Teixeira's best asset isn't his powerful offense or his Gold Glove-caliber defense. Instead, it's his work ethic.
Mark Teixeira was drafted by the Rangers with the fifth overall pick.
Floyd took a different path to national prominence. Rising up the charts, widely regarded as the best high school pitching prospect in the nation, Floyd was named to the Baltimore Sun's All-Metro team three years in a row, including twice as Metro Player of the Year. Also named first-team All-American, he finished his prep career with a record of 30-5 and an ERA of 1.35. Regularly lighting up the radar guns with a pitch-speed of 90-95 mph, Floyd was the third pitcher and the first high school hurler drafted in 2001. He was chosen behind No. 1 draftee Mark Prior, who went to the Cubs, and Tampa Bay pick Dewon Brazelton.
Norton says he knew he was dealing with something special early on.
"I let him play JV his freshman year, but then before his sophomore year is when I realized he was something different," Norton said. "I got in touch with the coach of the Oriolelanders, Dean Albany, and set them up so he could get more exposure," Norton said.
"With Gavin, it got to the point where I had to set up another telephone line to answer questions for the scouts. They were constantly calling."
In Teixeira's first three seasons in the big leagues, he crushed 107 homers, knocking in 340 runs while batting .282. In 2004 he hit for the cycle and in 2005 he was named to the American League All-Star team. That same season he knocked in 144 RBIs, the most in a single season by any switch hitter in Major League history.
Floyd was first promoted to the big leagues in July of 2004 at age 21. During the 2004 and 2005 seasons he moved back and forth between Philadelphia and the team's Triple-A affiliate in Scranton-Wilkes-Barre after struggling in his short stints with the pro team.
He has struggled again this season with an ERA of 6.62 and a record of 4-2 through 10 starts. However, the young righty has shown flashes of brilliance including five shutout innings against the New York Mets on May 11.
On June 6-7, hundreds of players will be at home, waiting for The Call that will confirm a life's hopes and dreams. Only time will tell if there is another pairing quite like Floyd and Teixeira.
Issue 1.7: June 8, 2006
Photos Courtesy of MLB