06/03/2002 8:46 pm ET
Former top picks offer advice
By Pierre Moussette / MLB.com
MONTREAL -- It has often been said that the anticipation of a highly-anticipated event can be more exciting than the actual moment itself.
In that vein, two members of the Pirates who have traveled down that road themselves
have a couple of suggestions for the player who will be selected first
overall, becoming the newest member of the Bucs' organization: soak it up
and be yourself.
"It was real exciting," recalls Chad Hermansen, the Pirates' first-round
pick (10th overall selection) in June of 1995. "You hear people say you
might get picked here or there. There is speculation, of course, about where
you might go and people basically told me there was a good chance I was going to be
picked in the top 10. I was just excited.
"When I was in high school, even
before that, I just hoped I could have gotten a chance to play in college some
day. Then I was drafted in the first round. It's such a big thing when
you're that age. I was just grateful for the opportunity. It was just fun."
Staring pitcher Kris Benson will be in an even better position to relate with the as of yet unidentified young man who will go first on Tuesday. The
lanky right-hander was the first amateur player to go six years ago this
"I think that remembering back I was pretty excited about the whole process," Benson said. "The word was I was going to go first or second and as it
got closer it looked like I was going first. The whole process was very
exciting for me: counting down to the day of the draft, waiting for the
phone call, seeing what would happen. The whole deal was a once in a
lifetime thing and it's something that you just have to soak up and enjoy
while it lasts."
If the Pirates decide to select a high schooler first overall, general manager Dave
Littlefield and the rest of the Bucs' front office may want to muzzle Benson
or at least keep him away from the young man they select No. 1, since
Benson is an advocate of the college system. Then 21, the former Clemson
Tiger was considerably older than Hermansen the day he was selected and
Benson feels that age and experience can be an asset to a young man
attempting to live up to the expectations of being a high draft pick.
"I'd always recommend going to college," Benson said with conviction.
"Those first three years in the minors, you could spend getting your degree
or part of your degree, experience college life, compete against good
ballplayers there and everything the college atmosphere provides you.
straight out of high school into the minors is a
tough job, a tough life. College kind of prepares you for that and it
didn't really take me all that much longer to get up to the big leagues."
For his part, Hermansen feels he handled himself pretty well as a highly-touted prospect. His goals evolved as he grew up and he has now attained
his dream of becoming an everyday Major League ballplayer, without having
gone the college route.
"No regrets at all," Hermansen answered when asked about passing up a chance to play in the NCAA and attend university. "I didn't really have a lot of
intentions about going to [college], I just wanted to play baseball and
start my career as soon as possible. I knew the team was struggling at the
time I was drafted and I thought it was a good organization to be in to try
to climb the ladder fast."
Although the two Pirates disagree on the role of collegiate
athletics in a young player's development, they are of one mind on how to
approach the big day and the road through the minor leagues.
"I'd just say that although people will expect a lot of things from you,
just go out and enjoy the moment and have fun," Hermansen suggested. "Try
not to worry about the stuff off the field and take it all in. Try to learn
from the veteran guys who have been around. Just have fun and remember it's
just a game."
"Continue doing the same things that you've been doing - that's why you're
being picked [first overall]," Benson added. "You've showed teams that you
can handle pressure and you're a smart player, you've got what it takes to
compete and you'll be up there sooner than everybody else. Don't put too
much pressure on yourself, once you try to do too much or rush yourself you
lose sight of what you need to do. Just have fun with everything.
great life to play Major League baseball. You get paid to do something
you've always loved doing, now it's going to be a job - you have to take it
just a little bit differently but try to have fun."
Pierre Moussette is a special contributor to MLB.com
This story was
not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.