My friend at the newspaper, Dirk Facer, had given me fair warning.
He told me I’d better get out to the SpringMobile Ballpark and catch the show before it was over. He was talking about Mike Trout, the Salt Lake Bee who is now the American League Rookie of the Year.
But the Jazz were headed to the playoffs and all the buildup was starting. The Bees? Let’s just say they had a summer ahead of them.
“He’s not going to be here long,” Facer warned.
I told him the Jazz wouldn’t be in the playoffs very long, either.
Turned out Trout was called up April 28 and went on to win the ROY award.
For me, he was the big one that got away. Or at least one of the big ones.
When you’re a columnist, you hit some and miss some as you try to cover a variety of subjects and teams. I saw Lance Armstrong before he was famous, but that was because I was the cycling beat writer at the time. I saw Chris Cooley and Kevin Curtis a time or two at Utah State, but didn’t go up there thinking I was going to watch some fine future NFL players. It just happened.
Ronnie Price was starring at UVU in basketball and the school publicity people kept saying I needed to get down and see him. Turned out I saw plenty of him – but not until he was in the NBA.
That’s part of the problem. Publicists always hype their players and unless you’ve watched them consistently, it’s hard to know if they’re simply good, next-level good or Hall of Fame good. Stats don’t always tell it. Ryan Toolson was a great college player at UVU and scored 63 points in a game. Yet he went undrafted and moved straight to Europe.
I certainly didn’t watch Mike Weir as a college golfer, but nobody told me he’d one day win the Masters.
All of this makes me realize there are two ways of looking at things if you’re into this kind of stuff. First, you can hope to catch them before they’re stars. That way you can say you saw them way back when. Or second, you can just wait until they are stars, then go see them. That’s not a bad option.
At least it eliminates the guesswork.