There is something about seeing a band just before they make it. Maybe you saw them in a dingy bar, maybe you saw them as an opening act for a band that was clearly inferior to them, but it is cool to say “I saw them way back when!”
The same goes for ballplayers. We may see them on our TV as polished big leaguers, but at one time they were raw minor leaguers or even unproven amateurs.
Danny Vietti at CBS Sports wanted to know, who did you see before they “made it”?
Name a baseball player you saw in person before they made it big in the big leagues.— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) November 25, 2020
I’ll start: Buster Posey
When I was in college, my roommates were both on the Ohio State baseball team, so I attended nearly every game for free. Nick Swisher was the starting first baseman, and I got to meet him a few times at parties. He was a very good player for the Buckeyes, although to be honest, I thought there were players on the team better than him. Yet he was the first-round pick and eventual All-Star, which is probably why I never got into scouting.
But we would see a parade of impressive opponents come through Columbus. Mark Mulder stands out the most, he was just a physically imposing left-hander on the mound that everyone knew was going to be a star. He was even the best hitter in the lineup, batting cleanup at DH for the Spartans when he didn’t pitch. One of our friends took to heckling every game, and he went after Mulder pretty hard. A girl came up to him - she said she was Mulder’s girlfriend - and started yelling “one day he’ll be in the big leagues and you’ll just be a fat guy lying on your sofa with a beer.” I’ll give it to her, she was right.
I also remember being impressed by future big leaguers like Rob Quinlan at Minnesota, J.J. Putz of Michigan, and Kirk Saarloos at Cal-State Fullerton. We also hosted the NCAA Regionals one year, and there was this kid at Nebraska no one could get out. He hit everything - led the nation in hitting. His name was Ken Harvey.
Who did you see before they made it big? Maybe you saw them in the minors, or in college. Maybe they grew up in your community - maybe you even faced them yourself!