Former Husky signee 'sizing' up the majors

Back in February of 2000, Grady Sizemore III had the whole world in front of him. He had just signed a letter of intent to play quarterback for the University of Washington and was looking forward to also getting a chance to play professional baseball if things worked out his way.

They did, and in June of that year, Sizemore, a third-round draft pick, signed a contract with the Montreal Expos that would cost them $2 million and his tuition to Washington.

It was a done deal, and as tough as it was for Grady to give up a chance to play football in college, it was a no-brainer to sign a baseball contract that guaranteed him enough money to live on for the rest of his life.

And then there are the perks. Like hanging out with Vladimir Guerrero, Javier Vazquez, Tony Armas Jr, Lee Stevens and Fernando Tatis.

"It's cool," Grady said of spring ball in Jupiter, Florida when he spoke to Dawgman.com. "You get to hang out with guys you see on TV, stuff like that, but it's still hard work. You are playing all day, and then you sleep. And you work out a lot too."

Sizemore got a taste of life on the road early. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder had a solid debut in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He hit .293 and made consistent contact, striking out just 24 times in 238 plate appearances.

Life in the lower leagues isn't a piece of cake, especially for a 18-year old kid out of his comfort zone. "Probably the hardest thing to get used to is staying in the game mentally," said Sizemore. "Because you are playing so much, you deal with failure a lot more. That's tough, but you just have to deal with it and get through it."

After spring training is done, Sizemore won't have to travel very far to hang his hat. He's been promoted to the Expos' Hi-A team, which also calls Jupiter it's home. It'll be a far cry from the last town Grady called home - Clinton, Iowa.

The Expos' Lo-A team is in Clinton, and that's where Sizemore played during the spring and summer of 2001. "It was a lot different being there because it's such a small town, an older town," he said. "But I'm playing baseball for a living, so I can't complain too much about it. And we were in a good league and our stadium was nice."

More than the living arrangements, Grady is thankful for his shot in Jupiter because of what he's learned so far. "I know what to expect now," he said. "I know just how hard I have to work. I see how all the guys that have made it big time have to work to stay there. But I'm in good shape and I'm not overwhelmed anymore by what's going on."

Sizemore didn't have the same statistical success in Clinton, but the Expos don't seem to be deterred at all. In fact, most minor-league scout expect Grady to make a solid impact on the organization. David Cameron of strikethree.com wrote back in January, "I see him as a very similar hitter to the good Darin Erstad who makes an appearance every few years. Sizemore won't be a masher, but he does everything well and I really like his future."

John Sickels, the highly regarded minor league reporter for ESPN.com wrote this about Grady, "Lefty stick, runs well, very good with the glove, and may develop some power. Looks like a breakout candidate to me."

Granted, a .270 batting average playing center field and a little left field for the LumberKings doesn't necessarily constitute 'breakout' numbers, and Grady knows it's all part of a process that has a ways to go before he sees fruition. "It was a long season," he said. "A lot longer than what I'm normally used to. Playing for 6 months non-stop is not an easy thing to do."

So when the season was over in October, he did what any kid would do who has been away from home for months at a time - he got ready for some more time away. "I took the month off after baseball to relax in Seattle and then I went to Arizona to start working out and getting ready for this next year," Sizemore said, matter-of-factly.

Grady admits to not following the Huskies all that much anymore. The Dawgs are definitely in the rear-view mirror. But it's not for the reasons you might expect. "It's really tough to watch them on TV," he said, adopting an 'out of sight, out of mind' mindset towards football. "I miss football a lot but I know baseball was the better choice for me. To be honest, it's depressing to watch football on TV."

He also knows that the Huskies will always be an option for him if things go south. "I guess it's always an option if things don't work out with baseball, but I hope I never have to worry about that," he said. "But it could happen, you never know."

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