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MLB: Been there before

Drafted his junior year at UCLA, Susdorf knows the danger of going pro early

Posted: June 12, 2010 9:57 p.m.
Updated: June 13, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

Getting selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft is glamorous.

Five locals will tell you that this year - Michael Hur, Casey Stevenson, Joe Zeller, Matt Valaika and Cal Vogelsang.

Yet some players will have to make the difficult choice - stay in school or take the money and get running.

Hart High graduate Bill Susdorf had a similar choice in 2004. He had just completed his junior year at UCLA and was selected in the sixth round of the draft.

Between that June 2004 and the spring of 2006, Susdorf signed a contract, played for two organizations and finally hung it up.

Just like that, it was over.

Susdorf said he's lucky.

He went back and earned his political science degree from UCLA and invested well.

Not everyone is like him though.

"That's what I always tell my kids. Go to college. Unless you get that lump sum of money that will be life-altering," Susdorf said.

Susdorf gives hitting lessons as well as coaches at Valencia High School.

He also owns a company called HOA Specialists, which does general contracting and maintenance for homeowners associations.

Susdorf said he couldn't do it without the signing bonus he received from the Texas Rangers in 2004.

He retired from baseball in 2006, but remembers the draft and the resulting situations clearly.

He had a stellar career at Hart and UCLA and was selected by the Rangers in 2004.

Susdorf and his agent went to lunch with the scouts who got him drafted the next day. They didn't talk baseball immediately. Then they did and started talking money.

With the leverage of being able to go back to school for his senior season, Susdorf high-balled the Rangers, asking for $200,000. The Rangers low-balled him at $120,000.

It took a week of negotiating, but they met somewhere in the middle at $150,000.

In days, Susdorf, now 27, was a professional baseball player.

A Major League team drafts some 50 players every year.

They have six minor league affiliates, each with approximately 25 players.

Baseball careers are begun and ended by the draft.

"I remember when we got back home (after the first road trip in 2004), the team released six guys," Susdorf said. "It's tough. ... It's a hard life. You don't perform, you're done."

Susdorf said he witnessed guys crying when they got released. Organizations, he said, will give high picks a better chance than low-round picks.

He said a lot of things have to go right in the minor leagues for you as a player and a lot of things have to go wrong for other players if you want to advance.

That is unless you're the Stephen Strasburg-type and your talent is undeniable.

But there are guys who get lost, like Susdorf.

He said a management change ultimately pushed him out of the organization.

After two years in the Rangers organization, he was picked up by the San Diego Padres, who assigned him to the Single-A Lake Elsinore.

Just 15 games into the season, he was told that he was getting demoted.

"I didn't want to sit here in the minor leagues and spin my wheels," he said. "It was a tough decision. It's all I knew in baseball. At the same time, I just knew it wasn't for me anymore. It's hard. It's hard to get out of baseball. But coaching has helped me."

Susdorf can look back now and offer some advice.

He experienced it.

He made the choice to give up his senior season.

He said he made the right choice because his circumstances were different. A new coaching staff was coming into UCLA after the 2004 season, making his decision easier.

For others, circumstances might be different.

They might sign for a number of reasons.

But only a select few make it.

 

 

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