OAKLAND — The Internet was not the force it is today. Phones certainly didn’t provide immediate access to the world’s events, including results of Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft.
So it was that Scot Shields, at home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., discovered from a total stranger that he’d been taken by the Angels in round 38 in 1997 out of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tenn.
“I found out in the mail the next day,” Shields said. “I was home, about two weeks after school had ended. My doorbell rang at about 9 a.m., and I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and went to see who it was.
“It was UPS or FedEx. The package said `Anaheim Angels’ on it, and I could barely open it, I was so excited.
“I called my parents and told them I’d been drafted. Tom Kotchman [an Angels’ area scout who managed the rookie team in Boise] called a few hours later, and we talked.”
Shields was amazed the Angels had taken him. He’d started and closed in college, once throwing an estimated 260 pitches in a 16-inning game. But he felt he’d blown an opportunity during an audition for Kotchman.
“A week before [the Draft] I drove up to Tampa and threw a bullpen for him, and I didn’t think it went that well,” Shields said. “I figured that was it.’
The day he received the package from the Angels containing a contract, Shields called his college coach and asked for some advice. He was told, basically, to “take whatever they offered.” That’s what he did.
“I drove to my dad’s work and signed with my mom there, for $2,000,” Shields said. “I was kind of pumped. I went to see my girlfriend in Michigan [Jaimie McGovern would become his wife three years later], and then about a week later I went to Boise and got started pitching for Kotchman.”
Shields was 7-2 with a 2.94 ERA in 30 games that summer, launching a career that would bring him to Anaheim in 2001 and again during the magical 2002 season — eventually landing him a role as one of the game’s premier setup men.
Only in baseball, to paraphrase Don King.
Maybe another story like Shields’ will emerge from round 38 in Wednesday’s final afternoon of bringing dreams alive for kids around the country. – Lyle Spencer