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Friday, September 28, 2012

From prospect to priest: Grant Desme leaves the A’s, becomes a monk and tries to find his peace

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.”

Danny Posted: September 28, 2012 at 11:22 AM | 45 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics, padres, prospects

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   1. RJ in TO Posted: September 28, 2012 at 12:55 PM (#4248078)
“I had everything I wanted,” he says, “and it wasn’t enough.”

Damn greedy athletes. Always wanting more.
   2. DKDC Posted: September 28, 2012 at 01:18 PM (#4248105)
“I had everything I wanted,” he says, “and it wasn’t enough.”


Yeah, he had the massive bonus that the Athletics paid in the hopes that he would put forth an honest effort to become a major league baseball player for them.
   3. The Chronicles of Reddick Posted: September 28, 2012 at 01:21 PM (#4248109)
Maybe the A's should sue God for collusion.
   4. TDF, situational idiot Posted: September 28, 2012 at 01:30 PM (#4248119)
Yeah, he had the massive bonus that the Athletics paid in the hopes that he would put forth an honest effort to become a major league baseball player for them.
And the A's were pissed, too:
Beane, too, was thrilled for him. Taken aback, certainly. "I grew up in a Catholic family, so what he was pursuing wasn't completely foreign to me," Beane says. "I spent half the conversation congratulating him."
   5. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 28, 2012 at 01:35 PM (#4248129)
Yeah, he had the massive bonus that the Athletics paid in the hopes that he would put forth an honest effort to become a major league baseball player for them.

Wow, that's a petty comment.
   6. Tom Nawrocki Posted: September 28, 2012 at 01:43 PM (#4248139)
Maybe the A's should sue God for collusion.


God does not answer letters.
   7. Gamingboy Posted: September 28, 2012 at 01:46 PM (#4248145)
Clever wordplay with "Padres" under tags.


Yeah, he had the massive bonus that the Athletics paid in the hopes that he would put forth an honest effort to become a major league baseball player for them.


I'm not religious and I'm certainly not Christian, but I feel safe in saying this: If a person is willing to give up on possible fortune and glory to pursue what he feels is his path in life, I'm not going to criticize him (so long as that path isn't violent or self-destructive).


(BTW, didn't one of the members of the Miracle Mets become a monk or something?)
   8. SoSH U at work Posted: September 28, 2012 at 01:48 PM (#4248150)
The players who called Beane were usually minor leaguers tired of the bus trips and worn down by the reality that so few do make the majors, that once ballplayers reach a certain age they're typecast as minor league lifers. Players with Desme's talent and future don't quit. They just don't.

"As I've told people, it's not something you try to talk him out of. At that point, it would be for your own selfish purposes."

Beane didn't tell him that he would have come to major league camp for the first time and start the season in Double-A, maybe Triple-A with a big spring, that he was going to be a major leaguer at some point or another in 2010 and beyond. He said, very simply, "I look forward to hearing your first homily." And that was the last they spoke.


I thought this was pretty cool from Billy. Then again, I think the whole Desme story is pretty impressive.
   9. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: September 28, 2012 at 02:15 PM (#4248180)
Grant Desme leaves the A’s, becomes a monk

So he bought Mists of Pandaria?
   10. Squash Posted: September 28, 2012 at 02:15 PM (#4248181)
Yeah, he had the massive bonus that the Athletics paid in the hopes that he would put forth an honest effort to become a major league baseball player for them.

Wow, that's a petty comment.


I think we can have it both ways. The A's did give him a pretty good chunk of change under the impression he was going to play baseball for them, used a valuable draft pick, and rehabbed him from the injuries he had suffered in college. At the same time he didn't sign over his life to the team, just his baseball rights. I don't think either side is kicking themselves too hard. I don't think it was Desme's intent to take the money and run and I'm glad to hear the A's didn't try to pressure him once he'd made his decision.
   11. The Chronicles of Reddick Posted: September 28, 2012 at 02:20 PM (#4248187)
Must be an East Bay thing as there have been a few Raiders that have become ministers as well.
   12. Squash Posted: September 28, 2012 at 02:23 PM (#4248190)
So he bought Mists of Pandaria?

They've been showing that commercial a lot and it doesn't make a ton of sense. There are fairly specific reasons why the leaves fall and they don't have a lot to do with Panda War.
   13. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: September 28, 2012 at 02:32 PM (#4248202)
I think it's supposed to be more of a pseudo-Zen-ish sort of comment (the leaves v. the fighting). But so far the xpac is actually pretty decent.
   14. Swedish Chef Posted: September 28, 2012 at 02:36 PM (#4248208)
There are fairly specific reasons why the leaves fall and they don't have a lot to do with Panda War.

They don't have Agent Orange in WoW?
   15. Dale Sams Posted: September 28, 2012 at 02:42 PM (#4248217)
But so far the xpac is actually pretty decent.


Do 12 year olds still kick ret pallys on sight? No thanks.

But i grudgingly admit a lot of the revamped stuff sounded interesting. I'm still looking for something to keep through the winter since Diablo 3 is fading..maybe Civ V.
   16. Poster Nutbag Posted: September 28, 2012 at 03:10 PM (#4248244)
God does not answer letters.


He does, however, post at BBTF....God? Where are you?
   17. Don Geovany Soto (chris h.) Posted: September 28, 2012 at 03:13 PM (#4248251)
Do 12 year olds still kick ret pallys on sight? No thanks.

No idea. I'm still more or less a noob; I've been playing maybe six months or so. But my experience has been that finding a guild full of mature people is pretty important.
   18. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: September 28, 2012 at 03:20 PM (#4248254)
Billy Beane should never have written that Book.
   19. Edmundo got dem ol' Kozma blues again mama Posted: September 28, 2012 at 03:24 PM (#4248258)
Billy Beane should never have written that Book.

Heh. Do let us know when the lightning burns heal, willya?
   20. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: September 28, 2012 at 03:27 PM (#4248261)
Billy Beane should never have written that Book.

Primey? I feel like all the dead horse beating this meme has done was worth it now!
   21. geonose Posted: September 28, 2012 at 03:47 PM (#4248277)
Yeah, he had the massive bonus that the Athletics paid in the hopes that he would put forth an honest effort to become a major league baseball player for them.

He got $432,000. Hardly massive. Not even life-changing.

And why the hate, anyway?
   22. UCCF Posted: September 28, 2012 at 03:53 PM (#4248283)
Must be an East Bay thing as there have been a few Raiders that have become ministers as well.

If I lived in the East Bay, I'd want to have God on my side as well.
   23. Comic Strip Person Posted: September 28, 2012 at 04:04 PM (#4248288)
He got $432,000. Hardly massive. Not even life-changing.


Life changing might mean different things to different people. $432,000 would allow me to erase all of my debt and buy a home (free and clear) for my family in the community where I live. That would certainly change things economically for us.
   24. PreservedFish Posted: September 28, 2012 at 04:11 PM (#4248292)
Is he becoming a monk? Like a monk monk? Or is that just a step towards normal priesthood?
   25. BDC Posted: September 28, 2012 at 04:25 PM (#4248306)
Is he becoming a monk? Like a monk monk? Or is that just a step towards normal priesthood?

Many monks are priests, though not necessarily all. I would imagine that Desme will eventually be ordained as a priest (not thereby ceasing to be a monk). "Monk" basically means that Desme has joined a religious order and lives in a religious community, as opposed to being a diocesan priest who lives among and works mainly with lay people.

When you go into a community, you typically bring your wealth with you. If Desme hadn't already paid off his parent's debts and bought them a house with the bonus, he might well have given it to his order. (They'd put it in trust till he made final vows and permanently joined them.) In any case, it's his money, as much as the bonus of every other successful or unsuccessful minor leaguer would be, including all the guys who win a few games or hit a few HRs and then decide to go to pharmacy school or work in their dad's beer distributorships or sell cars or whatever.
   26. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: September 28, 2012 at 04:50 PM (#4248326)
Life changing might mean different things to different people.


Precisely. When people say "life changing" on BBTF they mean "Enough that he won't ever have to work again", which is certainly life changing but not the low threshold for it. $40K might totally remake the life of a 20-something with student debt, while $400K might not be especially meaningful for an older person who already has a fair amount of money.
   27. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: September 28, 2012 at 05:06 PM (#4248340)
I mean this comment without judgment, but this has to be one of the stranger baseball stories of the last decade or so, right?
   28. DKDC Posted: September 28, 2012 at 05:06 PM (#4248341)
My #2 was just a throwaway comment. I don't have any particular tie to the As or Desme, and I won't judge him for the choices he made. More power to him, since he either had the legal right to keep the money and/or the As gave their blessing.

I do find some of the comments defending him to be interesting, though.

Wouldn't people feel differently if it was a $5 million bonus and he was chasing his dream to become a pornographer? I think more people (including the As) would feel like he was a bad actor in that case.
   29. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: September 28, 2012 at 05:22 PM (#4248355)
Wouldn't people feel differently if it was a $5 million bonus and he was chasing his dream to become a pornographer? I think more people (including the As) would feel like he was a bad actor in that case.


I doubt that acting ability is that big a consideration in porn, really.
   30. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: September 28, 2012 at 05:25 PM (#4248358)
I doubt that acting ability is that big a consideration in porn, really.

Define "acting."
   31. The District Attorney Posted: September 28, 2012 at 05:26 PM (#4248361)
Wouldn't people feel differently if it was a $5 million bonus and he was chasing his dream to become a pornographer? I think more people (including the As) would feel like he was a bad actor in that case.
Changing the facts might indeed change the conclusions people draw from them.
   32. Danny Posted: September 28, 2012 at 05:30 PM (#4248364)
Wouldn't people feel differently if it was a $5 million bonus and he was chasing his dream to become a pornographer? I think more people (including the As) would feel like he was a bad actor in that case.

I would feel differently if Desme never had any intention of pursuing a baseball career when he signed, but I don't think that was the case.
   33. BDC Posted: September 28, 2012 at 05:41 PM (#4248375)
feel differently if it was a $5 million bonus and he was chasing his dream to become a pornographer?

That's an interesting wrinkle. I don't know for sure. Most pornographers want to make money, so having just signed a $5M bonus and having a fair prospect of making eight or nine figures over a baseball career would probably be an incentive for most budding pornographers to learn to hit the curveball, and start their blue-movie career down the road. The idea of knocking yourself out on the travel-team circuit to get drafted for megabucks so you can cash in and bankroll your porn career doesn't quite add up.

But unrealistic as it seems, I do have to think that a kid who signed for $5M and then thought "baseball is stifling me, I must follow my dream of achieving the most artistic money shot ever put on digital video" would have my sympathies.

The thing about Desme is that he followed a vocation somewhere where money ceased to matter. And it's not like the A's gave him the money to establish a synagogue or something. His bonus was part of their aggregate calculation that some of their prospects will make it and most won't, for numerous assorted reasons.

I do wonder if it will affect their drafting in future. They are famous for putting a Milo on guys, but if they run across any especially pious prospects, they may have to put a Halo on them.
   34. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 28, 2012 at 05:43 PM (#4248378)
The thing about Desme is that he followed a vocation somewhere where money ceased to matter.

This. The fact that he's going to take a vow of poverty makes me feel like he didn't plan to rip off the A's to get the $400K.
   35. depletion Posted: September 28, 2012 at 07:38 PM (#4248488)
Yeah, he'll probably give whatever's left of the 432K to charity. Like, me, for example.
   36. cardsfanboy Posted: September 28, 2012 at 08:10 PM (#4248513)
Yeah, he'll probably give whatever's left of the 432K to charity.


and we are full circle back to the porn (or is charity more often a stripper's name than a porn name)
   37. SoSH U at work Posted: September 28, 2012 at 08:46 PM (#4248540)

I do find some of the comments defending him to be interesting, though.

Wouldn't people feel differently if it was a $5 million bonus and he was chasing his dream to become a pornographer? I think more people (including the As) would feel like he was a bad actor in that case.


If it was the same bonus and he chased his dream to go do humanitarian work in a third-world nation, would you still feel strongly opposed? Or, if he had signed for the bonus but turned out to be a terrible ballplayer and wasn't making any progress toward the big leagues. Does he have an obligation to stay with the sport for as long as the A's will employ him?

If I thought Desme had suckered the A's with no intention of ever seriously pursuing baseball, I'm sure I'd feel differently. But I seriously doubt that's the case, since he ended up pursuing a vocation that requires a vow of poverty.

The choice of pursuit is going to affect how I feel about his decision. But as long as he was honest at the time he signed the contract, I wouldn't get worked up over him quitting the sport at some point down the road.


   38. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: September 28, 2012 at 08:59 PM (#4248550)
Since it wasn't said - TFA is definitely worth reading.
   39. PreservedFish Posted: September 28, 2012 at 09:08 PM (#4248555)
If someone paid me a huge signing bonus like that, I would feel bad about quitting early. And I imagine that Desme does. But that guilt probably wouldn't be enough to keep me from what I thought was an absolutely necessary change in my life.
   40. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: September 28, 2012 at 09:44 PM (#4248587)
He gave them two and a half years of his life in exchange for that bonus, and I don't believe that he ever had a 40-man roster spot or a guaranteed contract. So just when does a player's right to quit kick in?
   41. PreservedFish Posted: September 28, 2012 at 09:53 PM (#4248598)
I said that he might feel guilty, not that he should not have done it.
   42. Squash Posted: September 28, 2012 at 09:54 PM (#4248600)
If someone paid me a huge signing bonus like that, I would feel bad about quitting early. And I imagine that Desme does. But that guilt probably wouldn't be enough to keep me from what I thought was an absolutely necessary change in my life.

I suspect this is pretty much accurate. I'd probably stick around for a while out of a sense of obligation (perhaps Desme did, he was in the system for 2.5 years I believe when it was all said and done, a year+ of which was spent rehabbing). My guess is he had probably had thoughts at some time in his life of becoming a priest, but then he became a baseball star, people were offering him a bunch of money, etc. ... for obvious reasons it's easy for that career to seem like the best possible option regardless. Then he realized that actually really was what he wanted after all. It's best for him that he made a change.
   43. Walt Davis Posted: September 29, 2012 at 01:09 AM (#4248737)
Desme had major league talent ... and God called him to the priesthood? God's priorities are all screwed up.

I think the baseball-playing priest is kinda cool. Being in the clergy never kept Tom Bosley from solving murders. That guy on 7th Heaven seemed to have tons of time on his hand. Desme can spend the offseason chilling with his monastic homies or tending his flock or caring for the poor.

Jesus (not Alou) said the meek shall inherit the earth. You don't get much meeker than the A's of the last 5+ years.

Wouldn't people feel differently if it was a $5 million bonus and he was chasing his dream to become a pornographer?

Y'know, sometimes context does matter.
   44. The importance of being Ernest Riles Posted: September 29, 2012 at 01:38 AM (#4248742)
As an A's fan, I would rather he feel a crippling sense of spiritual emptiness while hitting 30 bombs for the A's, but I'm an #######.
   45. depletion Posted: September 29, 2012 at 09:55 AM (#4248784)
Maybe he could use his baseball talent to coach youngsters, like Brother Colm O'Connell does with running.

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