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"Outside the Lines" story on Matt Harrington's failed major league dream

Discussion in 'All Other Sports' started by wrbanwal, Apr 23, 2009.

  1. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

    Dec 27, 2005
    Very sad, and yes, the Padres had a shot at him. Bad decisions by his parents and agents. But ultimately, he made them.


    ALMDALE, Calif. -- The summer night Bill Harrington realized he had become a pariah here in his hometown, he was 85 miles down the road, watching one of the most dazzling prospects scouts could recall, who also happened to be his son.

    This was seven years ago, in Long Beach, at a game being played at a tiny 3,000-seat stadium -- an independent league game in which the participants were mostly trying desperately to revive failed dreams of major league glory. On this particular night, however, there was one player whose name was even more recognizable than some of the former big leaguers who were passing through on their way to athletic oblivion, a name that somehow had become representative of all that fans hate about modern-day players. Synonymous with greed. That would be Bill's son, Matt Harrington, who -- after being selected No. 7 in the baseball draft only two years earlier -- had turned down almost $5 million from the Colorado Rockies and who eventually would go on to become the first player in major league history drafted five times without ever signing.
    Check out a preview of the "Outside the Lines" story on Matt Harrington's failed major league dream. Watch the full piece Sunday at 8 a.m. ET on ESPN.

    But before that dubious record would become a reality, before Matt would end up working in the tire department at Costco for $11.50 an hour, he was still trying to find his way back to the money, back to the talent that once had him ranked as the best high school pitching prospect in the country. So here he was, making less than $1,500 a month with the Long Beach Breakers, loosening up in the bullpen before starting that 2002 summer night.

    Fun? Not hardly. And the Breakers fans were not helping. "You know you're the reason baseball tickets are so expensive!" one bellowed at Matt from the behind the wall of the bullpen, and others quickly joined in.

    The abuse was distracting Matt, in part because it was coming from people in his community, the same locals who once had seen him as a symbol of hope, the Palmdale kid who grew up without much money but who one day would be a superstar pitcher in the bigs and make millions of dollars, the repository of their own unfulfilled dreams. So when Matt crashed and burned, they didn't take it well. On this day, they were hammering him, berating him for his stupidity.

    "How could you turn down all that money? What are you, an idiot?"

    The insults, second-guessing, guilt, shame, fear, devastation -- all of it had been welling inside Bill and Troy, Matt's brother, who found themselves trapped in the belly of the beast. In the two years since the debacle with the Rockies and the one year since Matt and his family had turned down another seven-figure contract from the San Diego Padres, they had found coping mechanisms for dealing with the disappointment of missing out on all that money. But the cruel taunts that day hit home like never before. This was too much -- this was coming from their people -- and Bill and Troy became unhinged.

    Troy was the first to lunge for the fans, and Bill was right behind because, well, that's what Bill is always doing: riding shotgun with his kids, fighting for them, pushing them as far as possible and as hard as necessary.

    And who could blame him? Because just a few miles down the road from where he had lived most of his life, from the community he had given so much time and effort and love to, Bill Harrington suddenly realized his family's name had become a punch line.

    The rest of the story -


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