You have to know that Michael Durant has a good head on his powerful, broad shoulders. He's tempered his selection by the Phillies in the fourth round of last June's Draft with a lot of thoughtful words. "I haven't made anything yet. There's still a lot to do," said Durant of his first season as a pro. "I know that I have to always get better."
Those are the words of a kid who is willing to do whatever it takes to reach the majors. A kid who knows that things won't be handed to him and knows that he needs to work hard to reach the lofty expectations that others have for him. Perhaps the key is that Durant himself has lofty expectations for himself. "I know that I have the talent that it takes. Now, I just have to keep working on that and improving, because I want to be as good as possible."
Even before he signed with the Phillies, Durant had a solid grasp on the situation. After all, he was an 18 year old with options. The Phillies plunked a lot of money in front of him, but Fresno State University was plunking a full-ride baseball scholarship in front of him. Either way, he would get to play baseball and either way, there were risks. The fact that the Phillies offered to pick up the tab on eight semesters of school helped, because it gave him something to fall back on. Eventually, the chance to play pro ball outweighed Fresno State's offer and Durant signed with the Phillies for a pretty healthy sum of money.
Durant's advisor, Brian Guinn talked to Michael about the advantages and disadvantages of turning pro at such a young age. The numbers that he put in front of his future client were staggering. He talked of how few draft picks make it to the majors. He told Durant about his career, which included exactly one game as a major leaguer. But he also talked of Durant's abilities. Having played with both Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire at an early age, Guinn was able to compare Durant to their abilities at the same age and he felt he compared very favorably.
Guinns' father was a scout for decades and even signed Rickey Henderson. When he saw Durant, he was reminded of Frank Howard. Phillies' Scouting Director Marti Wolever sees a right-handed hitting Ryan Howard when he watches Durant.
While the odds are still against Durant as they are against all young players, Durant has faced tough odds before and won. There were many who thought Durant would head down the wrong road as a teenager who decided he didn't need to attend school. Luckily for Durant, he had people around him who helped him to see that he was making the wrong decision or this story would probably have never played out the way it has.
In his first pro season, Durant had to think about those long odds that he had heard about. Playing in the Gulf Coast League, Durant managed six homeruns, but hit just .190 on the season. He also struck out in almost half of his at bats. It was a far cry from his .440 average in his senior season at Berkeley High School.
Durant will probably see time in extended spring training next season before playing at Batavia later in the summer. From there, his progress will be gauged and he'll move accordingly. There are no guarantees and Durant knows it. Instead, he'll rely on his work ethic and his ability to beat the odds. He'll work on every aspect of his game and not rest on the lofty comparisons that others have put on him. While the odds are tough, you have to figure that a kid with this much talent and drive will find a way to succeed. Michael Durant is a kid worth pulling for and it will be interesting to see just how far he goes.