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Ex-Gator ready to return to "job'

Brad Baisley rolls into his job at a Tampa car dealership every weekday at about 9 a.m. Baisley doesn't really want to work, but his parents insisted.

"I told him to get in the real world," said his father, Cal. "He can get a little pocket money and an appreciation for what he got."

What the 6-foot-10 right-hander got from the Philadelphia Phillies as the first overall pick of the second round of the June amateur draft was a $750,000 signing bonus.

But with most of the money invested _ except for what he spent on a Chevy Tahoe and a hot tub for his parents _ Baisley figured he could use a few dollars.

As it turned out, he was playing right into his parents' hands.

"With this job, I am thankful (for what I got)," said the Land O'Lakes High grad, whose job is to move cars around the dealership lot. "I don't like it at all."

So Baisley said he will quit this week and spend the next six weeks preparing for the start of spring training, which will be at the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater. At its conclusion, Baisley may stay for extended spring training or may be shipped to either Batavia, N.Y., a short-season Class A team in the New York-Penn League, or Piedmont, N.C., a low Class A team in the South Atlantic League.

Whatever happens, Baisley is not taking anything for granted.

"I don't really think of it as a job," he said. "It's just playing baseball. It's hard work, but it's not a job."

Baisley was pretty successful last season, going 3-2 with a 3.58 ERA in seven games at Martinsville, Va., a rookie league team in the Appalachian League. He threw 27 innings, struck out 14 and walked just four.

He then spent six weeks in an instructional league in Clearwater. No matter what Baisley said, that sounded like a job.

The team got going at 7 a.m. for agility exercises and weightlifting. Three hours of drills and instruction began at 9. Games were played at 1 p.m.

By the time the summer was over, Baisley said he was throwing smoother than ever thanks to a slight modification in his motion. He now brings both hands over his head during his windup. Before, his hands got only forehead high. By sheer repetition, he said he has better control of his curveball.

It was the curveball that earned him his first professional strikeout in his first game at Martinsville. Baisley ended his only inning by getting a Princeton Devil Rays batter to chase a dipping pitch.

"That game was exciting," Baisley said. "I felt kind of tight. I was a little nervous. But once I got out there and threw a couple of pitches, I was okay."

Baisley said he was okay with the entire Martinsville scene.

Though it was his first time living away from home, he said he quickly became self-sufficient. He shared a room with pitcher Ryan Madson. They and pitcher Matt Bailie lived with the Fergusons, a host family.

The players were paid $800 a month. Each paid $40 a week rent. Baisley said the Fergusons were nice enough to cook them one meal a day.

Martinsville is a small town _ population 16,000 _ in south-central Virginia, about 40 miles south of Roanoke. Baisley said there is little to do there but play baseball _ and watch it, apparently.

Baisley said his start against the Bristol White Sox coincided with the employee outing of a local furniture factory. About 3,500 fans sold out Hooker Field and saw Baisley pick up his first loss.

"He loved it. He enjoyed the whole thing," Cal said. "He enjoyed the life, the playing, the competition. He really felt like he learned a lot from the whole experience. It's all positive."

As was his time in Clearwater. Baisley said members of the major league Phillies occasionally showed up to work out. He said pitcher Curt Shilling spent almost two hours talking to the prospects.

"The main thing he spoke about is how he prepares for the game and how many videotapes he has of all the guys he faces and how he watches them before every game," Baisley said.

Right now, Baisley is watching the calendar. The new season could offer a huge challenge if he is sent to Piedmont, which plays a 140-game season. It will be Baisley's first exposure to that kind of rigorous schedule.

"I'm looking forward to it," Baisley said of the season.

"It'll be fun playing again."

And compared to that car dealership, it will be a piece of cake.