Chris Malone Ignored by Kansas City

<b>VERO BEACH, Florida</b>-- A decade ago Eric Gagne was drafted by the Chicago White Sox who, instead of signing him, advised him to spend a year in American ball, adjusting and learning more about his craft. Thus, Eric went to a junior college, pitched well but, incredible as it seems now, received no subsequent offer from the Sox, then went through the draft again and wasn't taken by anybody.

We all know how well things turned out in that story for he went home, earned a Dodger deal and, look, Ma, top of the world. A story that Chris Malone can relate to, for sure.

Malone had been drafted by the Royals after his freshman season at San Joaquin Delta Junior College in Northern California in 2003 when he went 8-3, 2.77. He, like Gagne, became a draft-and-follow but a 6-4 sophomore season caused not only the Royals to back off but, (yeah, there's a story line here), no other team to claim him in the draft that followed

He did get an offer to pitch in Alaska, which to the uninitiated, may sound like a trip to oblivion but that's hardly the case. The Alaska Summer League is packed with top collegiate talent and scouts regularly find the way north to view it. There, they certainly saw the resurgence of Malone.

"Best time in my life," he enthuses. "The scenery is magnificent and the talent was impressive. I found my groove, began to understand my mechanics adjusted to the level of play and was getting outs."

He was never better than in a game in which he threw a no-hitter, striking out 18 along the way. The Dodgers' Tim Hallgren was there and after that game, made an offer. It was not one accepted at the moment, though.

"I had a 50 percent scholarship offer from the University of Tennessee and they increased that to 93 percent. I was still thinking going there," Chris relates.

His team, the Mat-Su Miners won the league title, while, in a poll of league managers, Chris was named the third-best prospect (and second pitcher). The Miners then competed in the annual National Baseball Congress Tournament where Malone admits he didn't throw his best.

"I had a lot on my mind. Also, they have a clock on the pitchers to get you to work fast. It caused me to rush my pitches."

Still, by now the Cards, Indians, and Red Sox joined the Dodgers in making definite offers for his services. He ultimately decided to choose L.A. because, "They showed the most interest. The fact that I'm from California helped, too." So he signed with Mark Sheehy, the scout who had originally spotted him.

He was originally to get his pro baptism in the fall Instructional League, "but the day before I was scheduled to get my first pro innings, we had to evacuate because of the hurricane."

Now here he is, a 6-4, 230-pound righthander who comes equipped with the requisite fast ball, curve and changeup plus a splitter he sometimes throws. He's learning to adjust to his new surroundings as well. "I'm trying to settle in. There's such a professional atmosphere here."

"I pitched a 'pen' the other day and threw 14 of 18 pitches exactly where I wanted to so that's encouraging. I have to learn to trust my ability. I'm anxious to get on the mound. I have to keep from rushing and overthrowing. If I do, I hope to make some big leaps up."

And if he keeps the Gagne story line going, he's on his way.