How Carey's choice became a big hit

KEN ROSENTHAL

June 13, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

BOSTON -- Paul Carey wove a classi hometown-boy-makes-good story yesterday, but he would have preferred it had taken place at Boston Garden, not Fenway Park.

Growing up in Weymouth, Mass., Carey wanted to play in the NHL, specifically for the Boston Bruins. But he turned down a chance to play hockey and baseball at Harvard to attend Stanford.

Carey, 25, wasn't the first person to fall in love with California weather. Still, who knew that decision would affect not only his career choice, but that of another future Oriole as well?

Maybe now Ben McDonald will forgive Carey for hitting a 10th-inning grand slam off him to eliminate LSU in the semifinals of the 1987 College World Series.

Yesterday, Carey saved McDonald from a potentially crushing loss, delivering the tying and go-ahead RBI in the Orioles' 10th straight victory, a 5-1 thriller over the Boston Red Sox.

"I wished he had done it sooner," joked McDonald, who left after seven innings with the score 1-1, only to see reliever Brad Pennington earn the victory after the Orioles' four-run ninth.

It's funny, but McDonald and Carey never talk about their fateful confrontation when both were freshmen in college. In fact, Carey didn't even know it was the pivotal moment in McDonald's career.

"At the time, gosh, it devastated me," McDonald said. "That's what pushed me toward baseball. I was caught between basketball and baseball. I wanted to play in the NBA. But after that, I said, 'I'm a better pitcher than that. I want to play baseball.' "

"Oh really?" Carey said in another corner of the clubhouse. "I'm glad I could help out."

McDonald, of course, became the No. 1 pick in the amateur draft two years later. Carey took a far more roundabout path to the majors, twice declining to sign after getting drafted.

No, he wasn't a first-round pick like fellow Stanford alumni Mike Mussina and Jeffrey Hammonds. The Orioles purchased him in March 1991 from the Miami Miracle, an independent Single-A team.

Without any major-league affiliation, the Miracle was allowed to participate in the 1990 draft. It selected Carey in the fourth round, and another current major-leaguer, Montreal shortstop Mike Lansing, in the sixth.

As Carey says, "It turned out to be a blessing in disguise." The Miracle disbanded the next year and offered Carey to every major-league club in a silent auction.

For once, the Orioles were high bidders.

At the urging of Ed Sprague, the scout who nurtured the Stanford connection, they completed the purchase for approximately $150,000, club president Larry Lucchino said.

"Sandy Alderson called me after we got him," Lucchino said, referring to his Oakland Athletics counterpart. "He said, 'Congratulations, but you paid too much.' I said, 'We'll see.' "

At the time, with Camden Yards still under construction, general manager Roland Hemond joked that Carey had "warehouse power." His progress was slowed by shoulder surgery after the 1991 season, but now he's living a dream.

As a boy, Carey pretended he was Carl Yastrzemski, the Red Sox's great left-handed-hitting outfielder. He converted to first base this spring -- smart move, knowing Glenn Davis' history -- but playing in Fenway stirred all his childhood memories.

He said he was more nervous taking batting practice two days ago than for his Fenway debut. He left tickets for 40 friends and relatives, including his parents. He'll remember his three-hit day forever.

In the seventh, Carey hit a two-out double off the Green Monster to score Mike Devereaux with the tying run. In the ninth, he lined the game-winning single after the Red Sox issued Leo Gomez an intentional walk to load the bases in front of him.

Both hits were to the opposite field. Both came with two strikes. And the latter came off Red Sox closer Jeff Russell, after Carey fouled off two pitches with the count 2-2.

"I couldn't have asked for anything else," Carey said. "It was unbelievable. It was awesome. I'd rather have done it here than at home in Camden Yards."

Actually, he'd rather have scored the game-winning goal in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals, but what can he do?

Carey, a defenseman in high school, envies his brother Jim, a goalie in the Washington Capitals organization. But suffice it to say, he's satisfied with his career choice.

So, for that matter, is McDonald. On top of everything else, LSU won the College World Series yesterday. All things seem possible. Ten in a row.

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