One Thousand One Hundred & Fifty One.
That is how many players were taken in the 1987 Major League Baseball draft ahead of Brad Ausmus. The catcher out Cheshire High School in Connecticut waited 48 rounds before hearing his name called by the New York Yankees.
Despite the wait, Ausmus had to be thrilled. But he was also conflicted. He had dreamt of playing major league baseball, but also had the dream of getting an Ivy League education.
After scoring 1220 on his SAT exam, he gained admission to Dartmouth College.
After being selected by the Yankees in the draft, Ausmus had a decision to make. Should he sign with the Yankess and pursue his dream of playing in the big leagues? Or should he chase his dream of getting one of the finest educations in the country?
Ausmus chose both.
After initially turning down an offer from the Yankees, Ausmus reworked the contract to make sure the team would allow him to take classes at Dartmouth. Given Dartmouth’s quartered academic calendar, he was able to play minor league baseball and go to class.
Because of the NCAA rules that restrict a professional athlete from playing college baseball, Ausmus was not allowed to play at Dartmouth. But that didn’t stop him from being part of the team. He worked as a volunteer coach and bullpen catcher.
Ausmus graduated in 1991 with a degree in Government and never received a grade lower than a B.
Dream of getting an Ivy League degree, check! Now on to the major leagues.
However, the major leagues would not come easy. Ausmus spent five years in the Yankees minor league system, bouncing around on teams you’ve probably never heard of like Oneonta Yankees & Prince William Cannons.
In 1992, the Yankees chose not to protect his rights and he was selected in the expansion draft by the Colorado Rockies before being traded to the San Diego Padres.
In 1993, six years after being drafted, Brad Ausmus finally made his major league debut. He has a single in three at bats as the Padres took on the Chicago Cubs.
Dream of playing Major League Baseball, check.
But Ausmus wasn’t ready to settle for checking off another dream. He lasted 18 seasons in the majors, including 1999 when he was named to the American League All-Star team as a member of the Detroit Tigers.
Ausmus finally retired in 2010, having played in over 1,900 games and a World Series. When the dust had settled on his MLB career, he was the last man standing from his 1987 draft class.
Out of the 1,151 players chosen in the first 48 rounds of the 1987 MLB Draft, including future Hall of Famers, Ken Griffey Jr. Craig Biggio & Mike Mussina, Ausmus lasted the longest.
Pretty good for a former volunteer coach.
In fact, his volunteer coaching days prepared Ausmus for the career he has taken up after his playing days were over. Ausmus is currently the manager of the Detroit Tigers and has the Tigers in first place in the American League Central Division with a 31-22 record.
It would be easy to look at this story as see a successful Major League Baseball player who has become a successful Major League manager. But that would be missing the most important part.
When Robert Frost wrote about the “road less traveled,” he could have been foreshadowing the story of Brad Ausmus.
Waiting to be selected until the 1,152nd pick. Splitting time between two full time jobs (baseball & school). Toiling in the minors for 6 years.
Ausmus accomplished his dreams the hard way. Many of us would have given up and opted for an easier path.
I guess that is why it is called the road less traveled.
Photo credit: Wikipedia