Once they all were “Phenoms”

June13/ 2017

My Redbird Rants pal Dr. Miles wrote a recent column about the plight of St. Louis Cardinals OF Randal Grichuk. His column was, of course, correct. I saw another story. Randal Grichuk, and 700 other Big Leaguers, were all “phenoms” somewhere at some time.

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The first “phenom” I recall was on the cover of Sports Illustrated on March 20, 1976 – Clint Hurdle. Yes, that Clint Hurdle. Clint never made it big with the Royals. He bounced around “The Show” for nine years including a brief stint with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Three marriages and a bout with alcoholism later, Clint found his niche in baseball as a manager. Not all phenoms are as lucky.

Every player who makes it to “The Show” was somebody’s phenom. Living the fragile dream as long as they can. That dream dies for most. It may be dying for Randal Grichuk.

My friend Tom coached the Fuquay NC Legion team. In 1997-98 he had the rarest of phenoms – a for-real 6-Tool player – Josh Hamilton. Tom “… prayed every day I wouldn’t screw him up.” Josh Hamilton

Hamilton was the first pick overall in 1999 by Tampa. In his first few months in the minors, a teammate talked Josh into getting a tattoo. Josh asked the tattooist to dull the pain. He gave him a small dose of crystal meth. You know the rest of that story.

Josh DID have a four-year window of “phenomenal” ball highlighted by his twenty minutes as The Hero of Game Six, his moon shot in the top of the 10th to put the Rangers up 9-7, and there would be another HR in the bottom of the 11th as we all recall.

Josh’s stint at the top and mega contract notwithstanding, the lanky kid they called “The Natural” never became “The Best There Ever Was.”

In 2006, UNC had two All-American pitchers – Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard. Miller was NCAA POY and 6th overall pick by the Tigers. He struggled as a starter with Detroit and then with Miami. He became a “player to be named later.” A Red Sox pitching coach suggested Miller move to the bullpen.

Andrew Miller’s move to the bullpen seems be working out well!

Miller’s UNC AA teammate Daniel Bard was not so fortunate. The 28th overall choice in 2006 by the Red Sox struggled, bouncing up/down for 5-6 years in every spot in the rotation. In 2013 he developed Steve Blass/Rick Ankiel Disease. OUCH!

Daniel Bard is out of baseball.

Folks in Millville, NJ know about “phenoms” – a kid they called “The Millville Meteor.” They said he was “The Best There Is… Maybe The Best There’ll Ever Be.” You know “The Millville Meteor” as Mike Trout.

I don’t “know” Randal Grichuk. I assume he is “a good guy.” He has had “some glory.”  Will he find his swing and be back for more? Or be back in Rosenberg Texas where he was once “a phenom?” Only the baseball gods know but they can be cruel.

Is it better to be “a phenom” that burns out; or never to be “a phenom” at all? Thanks for reading and GO CARDINALS!


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