There are 40 rounds in every edition of the recently-concluded MLB First-Year Player Draft. The names with the biggest potential go in the first round, and other players who may be polished into big leaguers go in the few rounds after that. Though there are late-round success stories here and there, most fall into one of two categories: high schoolers who go to college to improve their draft stock, or marginal players who will grind out life in the minor leagues until it beats the hope out of them.
Of the high schoolers, most never amount to anything, either. The Orioles have selected players like Michael Young, Cliff Lee, and Cecil Fielder in the late rounds. They did not sign and later were drafted again and eventually became veteran major league players.
Most are not like these. They are afterthoughts, if they are even thought about at all. They are no one. They are on no one's radar. Their stories do not matter to the Orioles or anyone else. You will never read about them and they will go on to be something other than major league baseball players, forgotten by the baseball world before they were ever even known.
There are a thousand players or more like this in every draft. This is a completely made-up background story about one of those players.
Round: 31 Overall pick: 939
RHP - Trinity Christian Academy (FL)
For much of the relatively brief time that he had inhabited the Earth, Dustin Hagy felt he was out of place. Even as a star baseball player on the 2012 Florida State Championship baseball team for the Trinity Christian Academy, there was one key way where he always felt that he never quite fit in. No matter that he was a 6'6" right-handed pitcher who could tantalize as his frame filled out.
Sure, he belonged on the baseball team. That was not in doubt. What set apart Dustin was the strange impulse, before each inning, to contort his body into representations of letters. He could not stop it at any time. People stared. He did not care. He felt a deep longing to do this for reasons that he never understood.
All he knew was that before he took the mound, he had to do this:
"E!" he shouted, kicking one leg up and holding out his arms to try to approximate an E.
"A!" This was a self-evident step to anyone who had ever done the YMCA, which should include anyone who had ever been to a sporting event, Dustin believed.
"G!" No one who ever witnessed this ritual could ever explain how Dustin formed the G. Dustin himself could not explain it. He knew it like he knew the back of his hand. He sometimes thought he was born knowing, which was ridiculous, and also possibly true.
"L!" It looked a lot like the E, only without the middle prong.
"S!" There was once a dance craze for the song Walk Like An Egyptian. The S came from a moment frozen in that time from that craze, or so he supposed.
After that, he could pitch.
The impulse was not one that developed when he went to the private high school. No matter what team he ever played on, he wanted to do this, the spelling out of the names. Burger King-sponsored Little League team? He would set to spelling it. Summer travel team? This name, too, he must spell out. No one could ever explain it. Not his parents, not his friends, not his coaches. They all thought he was crazy. They never said anything, but he knew they thought it.
June 6, 2013 was the day of destiny for Dustin. It was the day of Dustiny. He thought that but never told anyone, because they'd only laugh and not in a good way. He watched the MLB Network coverage of the draft, just in case. No scout ever came and told him he could be a first-round pick and no one ever approached his family about signing, but you never know. Something weird might happen. He was not drafted.
He waited by the phone on the next day of the draft, watching the little webcast with Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis, just in case he got picked in rounds 3-10 too, although he knew better, because he was planning to go to college and was not a top-flight prospect and he was now precisely the kind of player who does not get drafted in rounds 3-10. He was not drafted.
The next day, rounds 11-40, Dustin sat around playing MLB The Show all day. He had his phone with him and looked at it every 30 seconds in case he missed a call. There were two wrong number calls to torment him. He forgot about it all after a while. Then his phone rang. It was Firework by Katy Perry, another thing everyone found strange about him.
Dustin answered the phone. It was the Baltimore Orioles, the voice said, and they wanted him to know they had taken him in the 31st round of the draft. Right then, at that moment, he experienced the strangest sensation: like his life had fallen into place. This made no sense at all. He knew he would not sign. The economics of the draft were such that they could not offer him money to make it worth signing in the 31st round. And yet, that feeling.
On the mantle, there was a long-forgotten photograph of Dustin from his Little League days, wearing the ornithologically-correct bird hat and an orange jersey. This was not the reason why he felt as if everything had come full circle. He perceived it was part of it, but could not put his finger on the rest.
The next day, he decided to Google himself. He wanted to know if he rated an article in the local newspaper, the West Volusia Beacon. (He did not.) He entered this search: "baltimore orioles hagy"
He found this.
He shed one single tear. His life was now complete. He understood. Maybe he would project into his frame and learn enough about off-speed pitches to be drafted again, and maybe the Orioles would take him again. Even if not, the great mystery of his life had been solved. That was his true Dustiny, and it always had been.
Author's note: this post is a joke. The Little League baseball card actually exists.