Dreams fulfilled, surprises, mistakes, slights: Red Sox players share draft day memories

June 04, 2014 - 2:21 pm

The 2014 MLB amateur draft begins Thursday. Years after being drafted, members of the Red Sox shared their draft day memories and the excitement of realizing their dreams of playing professionally. Jonny Gomes: Drafted by Rays in 18th round, 2001 Gomes didn't have set plans to play baseball in college, let alone expectations of doing it professionally. He had booked a cruise, his first vacation, during the 2001 draft and had no intentions of canceling it following a workout with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. "€œI don't even have a college scholarship. What makes you think I'm going to go professional?"€ he recalled thinking. When he returned home from the trip two days after the draft, he was surprised to hear a message on his answering machine saying he had been selected by the Devil Rays. Gomes hadn't hired an agent --€“ he didn't think he would be in the position to need one -- so he called back to negotiate on his own. The Devil Rays offered an $18,000 signing bonus for the 18th round. Gomes countered with $20,000 and they agreed. (He hired an agent following his first season in the instructional league after learning of bigger deals other players had received. "I said, '€˜Huh, I'm way off.'€™") Looking back now, Gomes laughed, "(My draft day memory) is probably a little different than other people, but it was zero." Shane Victorino: Drafted by Dodgers in sixth round, 1999 It sounds like the plot of a fairy tale: Victorino went to bed one night and woke up a professional baseball player. Huh? OK, let's explain. Victorino grew up in Hawaii, where there was a six-hour time difference from the draft action. He had been sleeping when he received word he had been selected. It was not a typical phone call, but one he gladly welcomed. "I was honored," he said. "I was excited getting that kind of news." The first people he told were his parents, as he was in high school living under their roof. While the details of what he did that day are blurry 15 years later, he hasn't forgotten the emotions he felt. "It was awesome. It was one of the better calls you could get," he said. Jackie Bradley, Jr.: Drafted by Red Sox in first round (40th pick), 2011 Bradley already had family in town to watch his University of South Carolina baseball team play in the NCAA regionals when the draft took place. He invited relatives and friends to join him at the Carolina Ale House to have dinner and share his special moment together. In spite of his anxiousness, Bradley still had a hearty appetite. "€œI definitely ordered a lot of food," he chuckled. The Red Sox selected Bradley in the supplemental first round, an experience that he described as "surreal." Even though he knew he was going to the pros (and even at a time when he was sidelined by injury), his mind still fixed on his mission at hand at the Gamecocks pursued a repeat as national champions. "I still wanted to focus on being able to help my team in college," he said. Chris Capuano: Drafted by Diamondbacks in eighth round, 1999 Capuano wanted to keep things simple during the draft. There was no fanfare in his West Springfield home. Instead, he sat at the kitchen table with his mother and father and waited for the phone to ring. "It was nice to share it intimately with my family and have it be a quiet day," he recalled. The Diamondbacks were a new team at the time, and based on previous conversations with a scout, Capuano had a sense Arizona was interested. The idea of playing for an expansion team was unique for someone who had grown up a hometown fan of one of the most historic franchises in sports. Whether the team was brand new or nearly 100 years old, Capuano was happy to be drafted by any organization. "€œI think as a relatively young kid you're excited at the prospect of playing a professional sport," he said. "œYou know you have talent, you've been standing out, but still the idea of playing in the Major Leagues is so far away."€ Mike Napoli: Drafted by Angels in 17th round, 2000 Napoli didn't know where exactly he'd land in the draft, but based on what he had been hearing, he thought the top 10 rounds were likely. So when they came and went, he was surprised. Monitoring the draft from his home in Florida, he began going about his business as usual. Since he had already been offered a scholarship to play ball at LSU, it was just a question as to whether or not he'd be suiting up as a college or pro athlete. Napoli had a baseball game the same day and focused on that instead. By the time the 17th round rolled around, he received the call he had been awaiting. His reaction by that time? "All right, cool." Napoli's career, which includes a World Series championship and All-Star selection, has exceeded his draft selection. Early on, though, he kept it in his mind. "I always had to beat out the first-rounders that were drafted before me," he said. In many cases, he has. Alex Hassan: Drafted by Red Sox in 20th round, 2009 The Milton native was playing summer ball on Cape Cod when he decided to make the 45-minute drive home during the draft. Looking back, he'€™s glad he did. Hassan received five or six phone calls from different organizations while watching the draft on television with his mother. As the 20th round neared, the Cubs phoned to inform him they were going to select him with their next pick. Then, something unexpected happened. "I was looking at the Cubs pick the whole time because I thought my name was going to come up, and the Red Sox were the pick before that. My name popped up. I thought it was an error -- maybe it popped up one pick too soon," Hassan recalled thinking. "But the Red Sox had drafted me and I was really, really happy."€ When the Red Sox called shortly after, Hassan realized there was no mistake at all. He had been drafted by his hometown team. "€œIt was wild, just a wild, wild day," he said.