On the afternoon Grant Desme retired from baseball, he was at peace. The world in which he had immersed himself was shocked and dumbfounded, of course, that a strapping 23-year-old center fielder with power, speed, smarts and just about everything baseball teams want in a player would quit. Sports is a place of great myopia, insular thinking and exaggerated accomplishment that conflates excellence and holiness. In baseball, God is the home run. And Desme knew that God well.
He hit 31 of them during the minor league season and another 11 in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League, where he won the Most Valuable Player award in November 2009. He emerged as the talk of the league, and the team that drafted him in the second round and signed him for $430,000, the Oakland Athletics, started dreaming on Desme’s future.
“He was going to be a major leaguer, absolutely,” A’s general manager Billy Beane says. “He looked like he’d gotten over that hump. And he could’ve been a lot more. A great talent.”
People in the game scrambled to understand why Desme would give up the riches and the platform baseball affords to spread the word of God. The decision wasn’t met with derision as much as wonderment. Athletes leave when their talents or bodies or something tangible betrays them. Desme left ascendant.
“I had everything I wanted,” he says, “and it wasn’t enough.”