Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Edited by: Tommy Parrill (@DearTommy)
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For you die-hard baseball fans out there just like me, I’m sure that you watched at least a little bit of the 2013 MLB Draft this past weekend. We at ‘Our Sports Report’ want to personally congratulate Mark Appel of Stanford University on going #1 overall to the Houston Astros. As I was watching the draft, I remembered that the first overall selection from the 1983 MLB Draft was a man that lives just 5 minutes from me.
In 1983, the Minnesota Twins drafted Tim Belcher out of Mount Vernon Nazarene College with their #1 overall pick, and even though he didn’t sign with them, Belcher compiled a 14 year playing career with 7 different ball clubs and even earned a World Series ring with the Los Angeles Dodgers. It has been 30 years since Belcher was taken first overall by Minnesota and in the wake of this year’s draft, he took the time to sit down with Curt Ashcraft of ‘Our Sports Report’ to talk about being a #1 draft pick and what it meant to his career.
Ashcraft: Growing up in Sparta and playing baseball at Mount Vernon Nazarene, was your dream to always play professional baseball?
Belcher: You know, I probably had the desire and the dream to play since I was 9 years old, but it wasn’t something that I manifested within myself until I got to college. It was always a dream and I kept it to myself. After I had started my professional career, my mom showed me a note from when I was 9 years old that I signed when I first learned how to write cursive and told her that it would be worth something someday. I was fortunate and lucky enough to see it come to fruition.
Ashcraft: Was the goal to always be a pitcher?
Belcher: No, I hated to pitch. I played catcher in little league and during my sophomore year at Highland, while only pitching a few games in high school. I wanted to be a hitter, but with my size and speed, I knew that wasn’t going to happen in college. I always had a good throwing arm, and Coach Sam Riggleman at Mount Vernon Nazarene was always great at coaching young pitchers. He soon realized that the mound was going to be the best place for the team and me.
Ashcraft: Leading up to the draft in ’83, was the media and national spotlight as big then as it is today?
Belcher: It was very different compared to today. There are just so many different ways for people to get information nowadays, especially with baseball being so popular. With ESPN and the MLB Network, the coverage is everywhere. I avoided the pre-draft spotlight for the most part, because I came out of nowhere being from a small school. After my try-out with Team USA, I became a noticeable prospect a few months before the draft. It kind of came on quick, because I wasn’t drafted out of high school and I didn’t’ go to a big college, so the media attention was low-key for me. It is amazing how times have changed.
Ashcraft: It has been 30 years since you were drafted #1 Overall by the Minnesota Twins, what do you remember about that day and why did you decide to not sign with Minnesota?
Belcher: It was an exciting day. We were having a party on a Monday morning in little Sparta, Ohio. It was awesome. I happened to be one of Scott Boras’ first clients, the Twins were coming upon the end of ownership and they had no money. That year, the Twins didn’t sign myself, Billy Swift, their second round pick, or Chris Forgione, their third round pick. It was generally accepted that you offered a first overall pick six figures, and they offered me $60,000.
Ashcraft: After getting traded by Oakland in ’87, was the feeling anymore special after beating them in the World Series as a rookie in ’88 as a Dodger?
Belcher: Yeah it was, very special. I was so excited and amped to get out there for Game 1 of the World Series it may have worked against me because I barely made it out of the second inning. Besides it being a terrible start, I wouldn’t change it for anything. Who knows, if I would’ve pitched well and lasted most of the game, Kirk Gibson’s walk-off homerun might have not ever happened. Even though my performance wasn’t the best, I wouldn’t change being apart of one of the greatest World Series moments for anything. Plus, it was special beating my former teammates in Game 4.
Ashcraft: Was that World Series the best moment of your career? Belcher: Without a question. I had a great rookie season and it was just such a magical season and team to be apart of.
Ashcraft: With 14 seasons and 7 different teams under your belt, what was your favorite city to play in and what was your favorite team to play for?
Belcher: I would probably have to say the Dodgers. Dodger Stadium is one of the most historic and best places to play in all of baseball. I didn’t care for the Los Angeles scene or the traffic, but being the first place that I played in big leagues, it will always be special to me. Cincinnati was fun because it was close to home and it was the team that I rooted for growing up. I was a huge Big Red Machine fan, so playing for the Reds was also very special to me. Playing for the Kansas City Royals was also a fun time, even though we weren’t any good, I enjoyed it.
Ashcraft: Looking back on it, do you feel that being a #1 Overall pick helped your career in anyway?
Belcher: I don’t think there is any question that it helped. The higher you are drafted, there are many more expectations, but you are also going to get more time to develop. I spent two years at Class-AA and I wasn’t very good. Oakland almost sent me back down to Class-A but with being a #1 pick, the organization has so much invested in you that teams will take their time for you to develop.
Ashcraft: If you could give any advice to this years #1 overall pick, Mark Appel of Stanford, what would you tell him?
Belcher: Just be patient, being drafted #1 doesn’t mean that you are the big man on campus. It may take 5 minutes or even 5 years to get to the majors, and even though you are the #1 pick, you are a long ways from being ready for the big leagues. It was a pleasure to spend some time with Mr. Belcher and all of us at ‘Our Sports Report’ can’t thank him enough for taking the time to talk with us. He was able to teach me so much about the business of baseball and due to that and the enjoyment of our conversation; Tim Belcher will always be a part of ‘Our Sports Report’ and is always welcome back. Thank you Tim.
Also, a friendly reminder to join us on July 5th for the 2014 ‘Our Sports Report’ Wiffle Ball Summer Classic in lovely Fredericktown, Ohio. For more information on playing in or sponsoring the tournament, PLEASE CLICK HERE! Hope to see you on July 5th!