When I look back at old drafts, be it baseball, football, basketball, whatever, I am struck by the sheer number of names I have never heard before. Because, of course, professional sports is about attrition and so many of the guys who get selected never go on to anything big.
I always wonder if any given anonymous player got hurt. Or if he’s happy working as a dentist someplace. Or if he went to some semi-professional league in Brazil or something and is living a life of ambivalent reflection.
Sometimes, though, we’re reminded that everything can just go bad. Like in the case of the number two overall pick of the 1971 baseball draft, Jay Franklin, whose story is told in the Washington Post today by Josh Barr:
First he had elbow problems. Then it was his shoulder, overcompensating for the elbow. He bounced around the minor leagues for a few years, then returned to Northern Virginia and worked as a laborer, in quality control and delivering packages. His wife left him, taking their two children to California. His father committed suicide. Shortly thereafter, Franklin was committed to a mental hospital. He now lives in an Annandale group home and attends sessions aimed at improving his ability to socialize; he said his therapist is changing his diagnosis to depression disorder.
Not exactly an uplifting story, but it’s a good story all the same. And one that will make you think a bit deeper about each of the names that are called out tonight, making you wonder what the story is behind the scouting report.
When he’s not throwing baseballs, Twins pitcher Trevor May is an active gamer. He streams on Twitch, a very popular video game streaming site, fairly regularly and now he’s officially on an eSports team. Luminosity Gaming announced the organization added May last Friday. It appears he’ll be streaming and commentating on Overwatch, a multiplayer first-person shooter made by Blizzard Entertainment.
May is the only current athlete to be an active member of an eSports team. Former NBA player Rick Fox owns Echo Fox, an eSports team that sports players in games including League of Legends, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Street Fighter V, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Mortal Kombat X. Jazz forward Gordon Hayward is also a known advocate of eSports.
The NBA in particular has been very active on the eSports front. Kings co-owners Andy Miller and Mark Mastrov launched NRG eSports in November 2015. Shortly thereafter, Grizzlies co-owner Stephen Kaplan invested in the Immortals eSports team. Almost a year later, the 76ers acquired controlling stakes in Team Dignitas and Team Apex. The same month, the Wizards’ and Warriors’ owners launched a group called Axiomatic, which purchased a controlling stake in Team Liquid, a long-time Starcraft: Brood War website which has since branched out into other games. And also in September 2016, Celtics forward Jonas Jerebko bought team Renegades, moving them to a group house in Detroit. In December 2016, the Bucks submitted a deal to Riot Games in order to purchase Cloud9’s Challenger league spot for $2.5 million. The Rockets that month hired someone specifically for eSports development, focusing on strategy and investment. Last month, the Heat acquired a controlling stake in team Misfits.
Once an afterthought, eSports has grown considerably in recent years and now it should be considered a competitor to traditional sports. League of Legends, in particular, is quite popular, reaching nearly 15 million concurrent viewers at its peak in the most recent League of Legends World Championship. That championship featured a prize purse of $6.7 million with $2 million of it being split among winner SK Telecom T1’s members.
The Orioles have re-signed outfielder Michael Bourn to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.
Bourn, 34, joined the Orioles last year in a trade from the Diamondbacks on August 31. Though he compiled a meager .669 OPS with the Diamondbacks, Bourn hit a solid .283/.358/.435 in 55 plate appearances with the O’s through the end of the season.
Bourn, a non-roster invitee to camp, will try to play his way onto the Orioles’ 25-man roster. If he does make the roster, Bourn will receive a $2 million salary, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports points out.