Rob Fai isn’t surprised that Oakland A’s prospect Grant Desme is ending his baseball career to enter the priesthood.
The timing? To him, that’s the shocking thing.
Desme is leaving the game at a time when his fortunes seemed to be rising fast. He batted .288 with 31 home runs and 89 RBIs in 131 games last year. Then he starred in the Arizona Fall League, where some of the game’s top prospects compete. He likely would have started this season at Class AA.
“Here’s a kid that’s on the brink,” Fai said over the phone from Vancouver, B.C., where he works as the assistant general manager for the Oakland affiliate there. “This would probably be an easier decision for someone who was maybe going through the motions in the minors.
“But if you know Grant, the spiritual side of his life has always been a priority. I don’t know if there was a tipping factor that made him wake up and say, ‘Today’s the day.’”
Regardless, today is the day: As first reported by FOXSports.com, the 23-year-old star prospect has informed the A’s that he will retire and become a priest.
“I’m doing well in baseball,” Desme told reporters on Friday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “But I had to get down to the bottom of things, to what was good in my life, what I wanted to do with my life. Baseball is a good thing, but that felt selfish of me when I felt that God was calling me more. ... I love the game, but I’m going to aspire to higher things.”
Fai and others said Friday that religion has been very important to Desme for years. He began his professional career with an injury-shortened stay in Vancouver in 2007, and Fai said, “You could see back then that he was extraordinarily polite and articulate about his religion. You knew it was a big part of his life, and that he would like to be a pastor.”
“There was a spiritual side to him, but he never forced it on you,” Fai continued. “He wouldn’t miss a baseball chapel. I don’t think he had a timeline for (becoming a priest), but it’s something he wanted to do.”
Desme, a Bakersfield, Calif., native, was the 2007 Big West Player of the Year at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Baseball America ranked him as the organization’s No. 8 prospect after last season.
Fai broadcasts games for the Class A Canadians in addition to his administrative duties. Desme hit one home run in his 12-game tenure with the team, but Fai remembers it as “probably the longest home run in franchise history.”
“All I hope is that, at the end of the day, he never regrets (making the decision now),” Fai said. “So few players get to the point where he’s at. In my perspective, the guy could be a priest when he’s 35 or 60. … Here’s a guy who’s so unbelievably close to making it. The timing is the one factor I can’t figure out.”
Fai wondered if current events — the earthquake in Haiti, perhaps? — compelled Desme to make the decision now, reasoning that “wearing a different uniform” would enable him to address more pressing issues in the world. If that is indeed one of the reasons, it would fit with Desme’s thoughtful nature.
“He might have been the quietest high-end draft pick I’ve ever seen,” Fai said. “He is probably the one guy I’d let my daughter date.”
Fai laughed, not realizing the irony in his remark until after he said it. Desme may never play in the major leagues, but he certainly knows what it feels like to get The Call.