Larry Bigbie believed it was "going to be more fun going out to take batting practice than to take a beating." Say goodbye, football.
His high school in Hobart, Ind., was a gridiron powerhouse, winning the state Class 4A title two of his four years there. Bigbie was the quarterback in a sprint-out passing game and was a prized recruit among all the state universities - Indiana, Purdue, Indiana State and Ball State.
Conversely, the Hobart baseball program was relatively unknown, so he didn't receive much recognition for his prowess in that sport.
But Bigbie had a lot of focus when he confronted a tough decision. Ball State offered him an opportunity to play baseball immediately, so his only helmet became the batting variety.
"My whole town was expecting me to play football," said the Frederick Keys' All-Star outfielder who was recently promoted to Double-A Bowie. "But I didn't see myself going to the NFL. Indiana State wanted me to play both, but I knew if I gave one up it would be football.
"I had always liked going to Ball State football games, so I wonder what could have happened if I had tried it. Now, it's over, but football is one of those things that will always be in the back of my mind."
Bigbie, a first-round draftee last summer, is doing just fine on the diamond. In his first full season, he has already advanced to the Double-A level after batting a respectable .279 over half a schedule at Delmarva in 1999 and .294 with Frederick.
And he has the attention of the Orioles' brass.
"Larry is blessed with a perpetual game face," said Tom Trebelhorn, the director of organizational instruction. "He always seems to be ready and you never know from one day to the next whether he was 4-for-4 or 0-for-4 in the previous game."
A right fielder with the Keys, his batting average has hovered around or above .300 all spring.
"He's got the smoothest stroke of any player you'll see in this [Carolina] league," said Keys manager Dave Machemer. "He reminds me of Shawn Green or John Olerud."
Bigbie learned baseball from John Thomas, his grandfather and a former semipro player in the Chicago area. Adjusting to playing every day and working on his defense are his objectives now.
"I made it known before the draft that I wasn't going to be a player who would be hard to sign," said Bigbie, 22. "I thought if I'd go in the first five rounds, I'd be happy. I didn't want to set myself up for disappointment."
Three Red Wings were chosen for the International League All-Star team, which plays the Pacific Coast League stars in Rochester July 12. Newly acquired outfielder Karim Garcia (.288, 18 homers, second in the league) will start with Josh Towers (6-3, 2.88) and Javier de la Hoya (7-3, 3.13, 6-0 at Frontier Field) joining the pitching staff. An oddity about the game. Outfielder Ruben Sierra of Oklahoma will be the first player in the Triple-A All-Star Game after playing in the major-league All-Star Game. He was a four-time American League pick. ... Outfielder Wayne Kirby had an 18-game hitting streak, the longest by a Red Wing since Damon Buford's 19-gamer in 1994. At age 36, Kirby leads the league with eight triples. ... Sean Maloney, who started the season at extended spring training, has retired 22 successive batters and is unscored on in 8 2/3 Triple-A innings. ... Rick Krivda, tied for the league lead with eight wins, is 43-22 with Rochester and needs just four wins to crack the team's top 10 winning pitcher list. ... The Red Wings lead the league with a 3.77 team ERA and are ninth in hitting at .268. ... Texas manager Johnny Oates was inducted into the Red Wings' Hall of Fame and attended the ceremony on his off day. ... Jerry Hairston, who underwent surgery on his left shoulder, is expected back after the All-Star break. He's hitting off a tee at the minor-league complex in Sarasota, Fla. ... First baseman Calvin Pickering, whose weight is down to about 300 pounds, went on the seven-day disabled list with tendinitis in his knee. He was batting .218 with six home runs and 30 RBIs and has struck out 70 times in 60 games.
Struggles continued at Bowie, which fell to fifth place in the Eastern League's Southern Division at three games under .500. Division leader Reading was the main culprit in the slide, which included 16 Baysox losses in 21 games. The Baysox were 0-10 at home against the Phillies and between May 20 and June 23, won only one time at Prince George's Stadium. ... Entering the weekend, David Gilbralter had batted .429 since the last game in May. ... With Eddy Garabito on the disabled list (hamstring), Darrell Dent moved into the leadoff spot and reached base in 13 of 17 plate appearances. ... Chad Paronto threw 18 innings without allowing an earned run, then surrendered four without getting an out in his next game. ... Rick Short hit in 14 of 16 games and had 36 RBIs over 41 games.... Managers and players for the Double-A All-Star Game at Bowie July 12 will be named this week.