CHAPTER 1 THE BASICS There's one word that describes baseball: "You never know." --Joaquin Andujar, former major league pitcher THE DREAM Life is pretty good if you're in the Major Leagues. First of all, you get to hang out with other major leaguers. You also get to be on TV every day and play in front of thousands of people. You get to see your name in newspapers and magazines and on the back of people's T-shirts. You get to see your face on scoreboards and baseball cards and posters. You get free equipment from sporting goods companies. You get unlimited bubble gum and sunflower seeds in the dugout. You get to relax in the clubhouse and watch big-screen TVs from fancy leather couches while other people get paid to wash your uniform. You get to fly on private jets and stay in nice hotels. You get recognized by kids and pretty women who scream for autographs. Sometimes old men scream too. You earn an average annual salary of $2.9 million (or roughly $17,900 per game), and when the team travels, you get over $75 extra every day to spend on food. No wonder the dream starts early. But is it simply about fame and money? Maybe it's about having the chance to do something spectacular in one instant that people will always remember. Maybe it's about a subconscious desire to play a game full-time and act like a little boy well into adulthood. Maybe it's about having the manager and trainer race onto the field to make sure you're okay after you hit a foul ball off your ankle. The motivation is almost irrelevant because every kid with the dream wants it bad. Every kid has a reason. Every kid has a story. Every kid has a good baseball name. Every kid practices his swing in the mirror. Every kid can steal a base and catch a fly ball and throw strikes. Every kid converts his statistics into a 600-at-bat season and concludes that he'll be a superstar in the majors. Every kid is sure he's gonna make it--and 99,999 out of 100,000 kids are wrong. They don't know how much better the competition gets every step of the way. They don't know how long the journey takes. They don't know that there's always some other kid with an edge. Someone is always taller, stronger, faster, smarter. Someone has quicker feet and softer hands and sharper eyes and better instincts. Someone runs more. Someone lifts weights more. Someone is using steroids. Someone's father is a baseball coach. Someone's older brother is already playing pro ball. Someone has a batting tee in the basement or a batting cage in the backyard. Someone lives in warmer weather and gets to practice year-round. Someone wants it more than anyone on earth has ever wanted it. There's T-ball, Wiffle ball, softball, and Little League. There are baseball camps, baseball schools, private lessons, and winter clinics in stuffy gymnasiums. There's high school ball, college ball, summer ball, and fall ball. There's Babe Ruth League, the Cape Cod League, semipro leagues, and independent leagues. There are scouts, agents, tryouts, strikeouts, errors, cuts, injuries, surgeries, and lifelong dreams that can die in an instant. But every year, the dream stays alive for 1,500 young men, at least for a little while, when they're selected by major league organizations in the First-Year Player Draft. THE DRAFT Basketball players regularly jump directly from high school to the NBA. Football players push right through college to the NFL. But baseball players have it much harder--as do the scouts who discover them. Almost all players start their careers in the Minor Leagues because their talent is less predictable and takes longer to develop. Each June the ongoing search for talent begins a new cycle with the 50-round draft. Every major league team employs dozens of scouts who focus on North American players--mostly high school and college graduates--who are eligible for the draft. Now that baseball is spreadinHample, Zack is the author of 'Watching Baseball Smarter A Professional Fan's Guide for Beginners, Semi-Experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks', published 2007 under ISBN 9780307280329 and ISBN 0307280322.