It has become all too common to see professional baseball players point skyward after a positive accomplishment – to thank a god, it would seem, or perhaps a dead relative assumed to be in “heaven” (nobody ever points down). Fans see this when a player crosses home plate after a home run, when a closer saves a game by striking out the opponent’s big gun, even when a swinging bunt turns into a single because the third baseman was playing too deep. Well, former Oakland A’s minor leaguer Grant Desme has one-upped all these superstitious fools wearing piety’s robes. On August 27th, the one-time star-to-be pointed to the clubhouse door instead of the sky, walked through it, and entered a Norbertine Abbey in California, where he will train to be a priest.
A lifelong Catholic, Desme actually announced in January that he would be retiring from baseball, but the 24-year-old made it official on the most recent feast of St. Monica. He hadn’t played at all this year, leaving the Stockton Ports – or a higher A’s affiliate – without a star who had hit 31 homers and stole 40 bases in 2009. He was minor league baseball’s only 30-30 man last year (at two different levels).
On January 22nd, however, Desme told reporters during a brief conference call that god had “blessed” him last season with “a better year than [he] could have imagined,” but that his ’09 experience only “reconfirmed” his “desire” to aim at “higher things.” It appears that the young player took an injury-free, successful year as a sign from his lord. He had battled hamstring, shoulder and wrist injuries since he began playing professional ball with the Vancouver Canadians in 2007. As a second round draft pick, he had signed a $432,000 bonus with the A’s organization that year. Oakland GM Billy Beane, whom Desme called back in January to explain himself, took the news then with some professional grace, especially considering that bonus. According to ESPN, Desme described the GM as “understanding and supportive,” but that the news had “sort of knocked [his formerly ultimate boss] off his horse.”
Following his entry into St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado in August, Philadelphia Inquirer sportswriter Frank Fitzpatrick found it “astounding” that the former outfielder had held onto his vocation “despite inhabiting the profane universe of baseball locker rooms.” Fitzpatrick also noted that Desme will, in all likelihood happily, “never again have to deal with the media, sit in tobacco juice, or wear a cup.”
But one must trust a higher power to help Desme fight off the temptation to smirk when he sees one of his profane, tobacco-chewing, former teammates point to the sky on TV. Smirking would seem to fall outside the realm of Norbertine tradition, which involves “contemplation, fasting, obedience, and labor,” according to Fitzpatrick. Perhaps St. Monica will help the former player with that resisted smirk. Back in the 4th century she was married to a man who used to belittle her for her charity and piety. Arguably, Grant Desme has already demonstrated some humility.
Fitzpatrick, Frank. “Around the Bases: Second Base.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. 29 August 2010.
“Former A’s farmhand Desme enters seminary.” mlb.com. 27 August 2010.
“Grant Desme.” thebaseballcube.com. 29 August 2010.
“St. Monica.” americancatholic.org. 29 August 2010.
“Top A’s prospect enters priesthood.” sports.espn.go.com. 23 January 2010.