Realize the opportunity
Editor's Note: Oakland A's rookie Huston Street will be writing a regular diary for ESPN.com throughout the 2005 season. The 21-year-old former University of Texas standout was recently named the A's closer and was the first player from the 2004 draft to play in the major leagues.
Defining moments are how we recall our lifetimes. Some moments are positive; other moments are not so positive. Either way, they profoundly affect further decisions we make, and therefore the various outcomes to situations in our respective lives. Every aspiring ballplayer encounters such a moment during the early days of June in his draft year. This day is the culmination of his god-given ability and 18-21 years of commitment and sacrifice to the game, and ultimately it will give a kid some perspective to his standing in the game. It goes without saying that this day comes with great anticipation and expectation.
Nowadays it seems as if the football and basketball drafts take two weeks to finish. You've got specialists giving their "Top-10 Picks," then there are all the pre-draft shows. Finally, on the day of the draft, you again hear from all the specialists to give you more up-to-date predictions, all of this is occurring on yet another pre-draft show. Even once the draft begins there might be 5-15 minutes between picks.
The Major League Baseball Player Draft, however, operates in a totally different fashion. The draft is covered on a live Internet broadcast that's it. There are no specialists or commercial breaks to fill the void between picks. The first round is over minutes after it has begun. If your computer freezes, you could easily miss hearing your name getting called.
I can recall my draft morning with vivid detail. The majority of my Texas teammates and I were all huddled around the lone computer in our locker room. All of us who were eligible for the draft were sitting in chairs trying as hard as possible not to let on exactly how nervous we all were. A thousand thoughts were running through my brain, and mostly I just wanted it to be over. As each of our names eventually got called, we would exchange hugs and high-fives. Some people screamed in jubilation, while others sighed in disappointment. Immediately after I was drafted, I felt a surreal sense of where I was, who I was, and what had just happened. The closest thing I can compare it to, without ever experiencing it, would be the first morning you wake up married. It's something you've always wanted and expected. Yet still you ask yourself if it really has happened.
This is a day that will forever echo through the lives of those involved. I was fortunate and got taken in the slot I wanted and by a team I had a lot of interest in. The recollection of my draft is quite favorable, but this isn't always the case. Every year in the draft, some kids get drafted higher than expected, and others, consequently, slide. Oftentimes two seemingly similar situations aren't even comparable. It is hard for a player who was expecting a first-round slot to be excited about getting drafted in the third round, while a player drafted in the third round who wasn't expecting any better than a fifth-round offer has a totally different perspective. Basically one player is reluctant to sign, while the second player couldn't be more eager to ink his name.
Through all this, there is still a lot of baseball yet to be played. If I had any advice to give those entering the draft, it would be to realize the opportunity you are given. Remember that your work is never finished. Every single day you either get a little better, or a little worse; you don't stay the same. Even when you make it to the big leagues, you're starting as a rookie, like me, and realize there is so much more to learn. Like I said, realize the opportunity and take advantage of it. Time is the one thing you can never get back.
Huston Street is a relief pitcher for the Oakland Athletics. He is playing in his first season in the major leagues.