Sunday, June 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays Tales: New draftees face bumpy road

Rays top draft pick Nick Ciuffo's youthful exuberance — and innocence — were understandably obvious in his Friday morning Tweet aimed at David Price.

Ciuffo, 18, had to be feeling pretty good, what with the pending fortune, a potential $2 million-or-so bonus, and immediate fame, pulling on a Rays jersey, posing for pictures, talking on MLB Network, doing interviews, dreaming large and loud.

And thus:

"Gotta work now so one day I can catch the great @DAVIDprice14 and maybe one day we can work on a deal so we can share the number 14"

Sounds good, right? (Well, besides the part about sharing the number.)

Except it's not realistic.

Price, most likely, will be long gone by the time Ciuffo gets to the majors — if he even makes it after navigating a development path likely to take at least four or five years.

Once the thrill of the draft passes, and the shine is off the new car many picks buy with their signing bonus, there is, according to several Rays who have been there, a significant reality check that sets in:

RHP Jeremy Hellickson

4th round, 2005, $500,000 bonus, debut Aug. 2010

"It's definitely exciting, but I wasn't expecting to be playing in Princeton (W. Va., site of the Rays' rookie-level team) in front of 100 people and staying at a Motel 6. Once you're past that level it's all good, but it's still a grind. … Four a.m. wakeup calls, 6 a.m. busses, 10-hour bus rides. … I had a blast those five years, but I don't think they have any idea of how much baseball they're actually going to be playing."

LHP Jake McGee

5th round, 2004, $215,000 bonus, debut Sept. 2010

"I think reality sets in about two years into it. Especially if you're a high school guy, and you're two years into it and you'll be low A, and you still have, realistically, like three levels to go."

OF Desmond Jennings

10th round, 2006, $150,000 bonus, debut Sept. 2010

"For me, it was going to Princeton, W. Va., getting on a bus, sitting by people speaking a whole other language than you, and going for hours. It's ridiculous. And realizing you're not going to be in the big leagues that year, or the next one, or the next one, or the next one, or the one after that."

RHP Alex Cobb

4th round, 2006, $400,000 bonus, debut May 2011

"It brings you down and you realize the difficulties of getting to the big leagues when you report (for the first time) and there's 80 other guys exactly like you, but bigger and stronger than you. I remember my first bullpen session, I watched Jeff Niemann throw in front of me and I was like, 'There's no chance of me making it if this guy is still in the minor leagues.' … That was a big eye-opener for me."

3B Evan Longoria

1st round, 2006, $3 million bonus, debut April 2008

"Everybody watches the NBA draft and the NFL draft and those guys are going straight to play at the highest level, whereas in baseball you're going to the minor leagues. Although it was a short period of time, I played at five or six different levels. And for the younger guys, it could be four years before you even see Double A or Triple A."

LHP David Price

1st round, 2007, $5.6 million bonus, debut Sept. 2008

"You learn quick. There's multihour bus rides; you're not flying until Triple A. The post-BP spread might be fruit and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It's not what you heard about. You don't just get drafted and go to the big leagues or get treated like a big-leaguer. There's a long road to get there, and it's not very pretty. And that's the picture a lot of guys don't see, they just envision themselves getting drafted, being with a major-league team and hopefully getting a significant amount of money. You can have a couple of those things, but it's not going to be glamorous in the minor leagues anywhere you go, at least until Triple A."

Rays rumblings

3B Evan Longoria was quite excited in Detroit to get a bat signed by Metallica front man James Hetfield, tweeting a photo captioned "I love my job!" … Among the, um, odder promotions at the Trop: On Saturday, couples, for $15 a person, can go on the field after the game, get a champagne flute and have their marriage vows renewed. Because nothing says romance like the Trop turf. … Unless the Royals have a rainout, ex-Rays ace James Shields, improbably, won't pitch during this week's four-game series at the Trop; fellow ex-Ray Wade Davis, who is 3-5, 5.66, is slated for Sunday. … Manager Joe Maddon made sure the players didn't get hungry during that lengthy May 31 rain delay in Cleveland, taking advantage of a concession stand 2-for-$1 special and sending a clubhouse staffer to get 200 hot dogs.

Got a minute? Jeremy Hellickson

Best meal you can make?

Scrambled eggs and bacon, that's about all I can make.

Must-see TV?

King of Queens

Band you'd like to be on stage with?

Florida-Georgia Line

Favorite movie(s)?

Law Abiding Citizen and Dumb and Dumber

Celebrity crush?

Megan Fox, same as last year.

     
   
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