Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Rookie, Part II

If you follow baseball you're probably familiar with Jim Morris' story, chronicled in the Disney movie, "The Rookie."

The Braves now have their own version. Peter Moylan's tale is fairly incredible: from Aussie salesman (playing ball on weekends) to relief pitcher with the Braves, all in the span of a few months.

I saw Moylan make his major league debut last night, and it was a pretty uplifting moment:

Until last week, Moylan's professional baseball experience consisted of two seasons of rookie ball nearly a decade ago in the Twins organization.

"I honestly thought I'd spend a year in the minor leagues, at least," said Moylan, called to Atlanta after pitching in only two games for Richmond. "I haven't played outside the Gulf Coast League and Australia.

"I didn't think it was feasible this year. Look at my story . . . it's mind blowing."

The specifics are even more unlikely:

Moylan spent two undistinguished seasons (1996-97) in the Twins system before returning to his homeland. He became a pharmaceutical salesman and played baseball on the weekends for a club team, akin to a U.S. recreational league.

The story took on a Sidd Finch-like angle seven months ago, when Moylan was warming up with his Blackburn Orioles club team.

He started throwing sidearm for no real reason, and noticed he was throwing harder that way than he could with a regular overhead delivery.

Just like that, Moylan said, his velocity jumped from 86-88 mph to 95 mph, which startled radar-gun toting observers at a national club tournament. He won a spot on the Aussie WBC team.

The Braves, Red Sox and a couple others were interested enough to offer modest contracts, and the Braves landed him for a mere $30,000 signing bonus.

Professional athletes are becoming more difficult to root for, but Moylan certainly made it easy last night. Give him his just due next time you're at the Ted.

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