Major Leagues

Bill Leesman, author, pitcher

When I was sixteen my dream was to make it in the Major Leagues. What red-blooded young North American doesn’t dream of making it to MLB or NHL or NBA?

I could throw relatively hard. And, I had some local scouts showing interest. But life has a way of knocking you down a peg or two. One of the scouts who came to watch told my coach it was too bad I was a right-hander. If I were a lefty, given my 5’11” stature and my velocity, I would have been sought after. As a righty, I needed to grow two to three more inches minimum to grab their real attention. My velocity and local success meant nothing to them.

I didn’t understand until a couple of years later when I went to the US for college. In my first year there, we had two catchers, both with talent. I apologize now for relating to older Major League players but they were who I knew. And, just like older books, they might be forgotten except by those fans.

Anyway, one catcher could throw people out at second from his knees. He hit the ball farther than anyone I ever met. Every hit had velocity. The other player was also particularly good. He could throw well, not as well, but strong. He could also hit, albeit not as consistently hard. The first was our everyday starter and the other, his very capable backup.

Who did the scouts come to watch?

Which catcher would they ask the coach to play first so they could be on their way and not have to watch game 2?
The backup. Why?

Our starter, who was a superstar in the league, was shaped like Thurman Munson. Short, thick, and slow. Too slow they said. The backup was modeled after Gary Carter. Tall, lanky, speedy. Munson had passed away a few years earlier and Carter was the prototypical future Hall of Famer. By the way, I too was a huge Gary Carter fan. He played for the Expos, who I cheered for.

Of course, the scouts didn’t care.

They weren’t looking for the best.

They were hoping for tomorrow’s potential, regardless of current success one was achieving. A player might be succeeding but if they didn’t fit the part, their chances decreased.

As a Canadian in an American game, I was an outsider. Succeeding in school was just as important as playing on the team, so I didn’t go out partying every weekend. I was short for a right-handed pitcher. I blew my arm out in the off season and had to learn how to pitch, not just throw (yes, there’s a difference). I didn’t fit the mold and the older players on the team wondered why the coach even gave me a chance.

But he did. His name was Bob Foster and although he passed away years ago, he gave me a chance when others wouldn’t.

Sometimes, as an industry outsider, it’s easy to get discouraged sending query letters to someone three thousand miles away. You don’t fit the profile. They haven’t met you. You don’t have the pedigree they are looking for. They’re making a business decision looking for the potential big hit tomorrow. That’s their job.

But you have to keep trying. You have to keep getting on the mound and throwing the ball and eventually people will notice the wins today and someone will give you a chance.

During my last year in college, I was named a team captain. In the league, I was one of the leaders in wins, strikeouts, and ERA, much to the surprise of many who said I was too short, and not the right profile to succeed. I was the pitcher the coach gave the ball to in the last weeks, trying to get enough wins to make the playoffs.

Interesting enough, when I returned the last year, the backup catcher was gone. I was told he was pumping gas and often high on drugs.

And the catcher that the scouts overlooked?

He went on to moderate success. He was the better of the two.

Me?

By that last year, I knew I didn’t want to play baseball in the Majors anymore.

I wanted to be a writer.

So, I will keep sending my queries out. And keep at the next manuscript. Because I know that people will enjoy my stories.

And I will find an agent like Coach Foster.