Foxsports.com is reporting that Oakland A’s outfield prospect Grant Desme is retiring from the ranks of pro ball to pursue a life in the priesthood. (An aside: kudos to Foxsports for the unbiased article title of “Touted A’s prospect leaving baseball for…priesthood?” Nice.)
It’s not for a lack of talent, as Desme’s play in A ball last year and the Arizona Fall League garnered him some serious acclaim. He spent one season at San Diego State before tearing things up at Cal Poly (a public school, by the way) and earning the 2007 Big West conference Player of the Year award. He was drafted in the second round (74th overall pick) by Billy Beane’s notoriously thorough scouting department.
Desme got a taste of minor league ball in 2007, but was limited to just 14 games total between ’07 and ’08 due to injuries. He rebounded for a huge year in 2009 between Kane County (Northwest League, short-season A) and Stockton (California League, high-A), batting .288 in 131 games with 31 homers, 89 RBIs, and 40 steals (the only 30 steal-30 homer player in ALL of minor league baseball). He continued to rake in the Arizona Fall League, taking home league MVP honors thanks to a .315 average, 11 dingers, and 27 RBIs 27 games. Baseball America ranked Desme as he A’s eighth best prospect.
ESPN’s resident sabermetrician and statistics guru Rob Neyer projects Desme as having the potential to become an average major leaguer if this development continues, and that today’s decision is a sizable, albeit not unrecoverable, loss for the organization, which helps affirm in part my conjecture that Saint Paul would have made a heck of a shortstop.
The release on the A’s website so far has been well received by fans (41 have commented already, and counting), as the majority of reader comments have been supportive. There has been some name-calling, but a lot of people who have labelled Desme a courageous kid and only lament that his retirement means one less “actual role model in Major League Baseball”. And of course there’s the obligatory Padres joke, and a few Jobu references thrown in there for good measure.
While the loss on the baseball field is the most obvious consequence, it’s nice to see a baseball player with some conviction to do what they think, and what we can all objectively agree, is right for them. When you contrast Desme’s choice with that of another notable former A’s player in the last week, I think it rhymes with “Schmguire”, it’s an admirable choice to follow your heart and not take what many perceive to be an easy road.
In truth, Desme is a very, very lucky person in that he has the opportunity to choose between two loves: baseball (which we’re assuming he is passionate about for him to get to this level, and which he has shown a more-than-acceptable level of skill in), and the priesthood. Anyone criticizing this decision is doing it partly out of jealousy. I, for one, applaud the courage it took Desme, and would remind anyone out there that just because you may not be able to understand the decision, that doesn’t automatically make it wrong.
-Matthew De George’10