Sunday, February 7, 2010

From steaing bases to saving souls...

Call-up of different kind for OF Desme :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES

BY DAVE HOEKSTRA Sun-Times Columnist

Grant Desme knew there was a higher ground even when he was playing for the low-Class A Kane County Cougars.

The 23-year-old outfielder announced his retirement from professional baseball Friday.

He is joining the priesthood.

The outfielder was on the Cougars' 2009 Opening Day roster and played 69 of 70 games before being promoted to Class A Stockton. Desme was the only player with at least 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in the minors last season.

The Cougars are an affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. Desme informed A's general manager Billy Beane of his decision Thursday. ''Coming at him with this out of the blue was a shock,'' Desme said Friday. ''It knocked him off his horse a bit. But he was very supportive and understanding, which I appreciate.''

Desme led the Arizona Fall League with 11 home runs and was named the MVP. He decided to enroll in the Catholic seminary St. Michael's Abbey in Orange County, Calif., after the fall league concluded. His final game was in the league championship Nov. 21.

''I knew it was a good chance of being the last baseball game I would play,'' Desme said, ''which was ironic considering I hit a home run and proceeded to strike out twice. That defined my career. There was no sad feeling.'' Desme visited the abbey and checked out the way of life.

''I let it sink in for a week or two,'' said Desme, who was born Catholic in Bakersfield, Calif. ''I talked to quite a few different priests and my family about the desire I was having. I kept this to myself in the baseball community. I decided I was going to apply. They sped up the process to accept me. Its about a 10-year process of studying and formation. In comparison, I'm re-entering the minor leagues.''

He will enter the abbey in August. When Desme played for the Cougars, he relied on spiritual material to pass time on the tedious Midwest League bus trips.

''I'd read books and bring my Bible,'' he said. ''I'd study or look on the Internet. I wasn't as good about it as I should have been.''

Baseball America ranked Desme eighth among prospects in the Athletics' organization. He never considered becoming a priest while also playing baseball.

''I wanted to give my life completely to God,'' he said. ''Something like this is very little compared to what he has done for me.''

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