rated Mike Pelfrey and Luke Hochevar as the top pitchers in the draft, but both
were being advised by agent Scott Boras. That ruled them out as too hard to
sign. "Romero was aggressive, had a really good breaking ball and changeup,
above-average fastball, was a great competitor," Ricciardi says. "All
the things you saw in Tulowitzki as an everyday player, you saw in [Romero] as
a pitcher. And being lefthanded, that was huge."
Says Boston G.M.
Theo Epstein, "I thought Romero was as sure a bet as any college
watching the draft unfold on the Internet, saw Toronto select his former
roommate. Romero, 23, is 8--13 with a 4.19 ERA in three minor league seasons,
none higher than Double A.
call," Ricciardi says. "Right now we made the wrong choice. I've been
in [talent] evaluation my whole life. It happens. When we were in Oakland, we
took [Ariel] Prieto over [Todd] Helton. Romero hasn't come as fast as the other
guys, but it's really only his third year. We still like him."
Tulowitzki took a vacation to Las Vegas with his friend Romero. Like Prieto and
Helton—or Sam Bowie and Michael Jordan—they will always be connected.
"Tulo," Romero told him, "the fans in the minors are all over me.
They say, 'We should have picked Tulowitzki!'"
The Rockies were
next. Seattle, Milwaukee and Toronto had passed on Tulo witzki in part because
of their organizational needs. "After what happened [in '05]," says one
American League G.M., "I'm really convinced you should never let positional
needs influence you. Just take the best player."
the right player for Colorado. And it was not just because the Rockies needed a
shortstop. It was also because of what had happened at 1:30 a.m. on a Friday
six months earlier, when police in Lakewood, Colo., pulled over a white
IN THE SUMMER of
2001, after Long Beach State found out that its top shortstop prospect had
failed to qualify academically, Troy Buckley, a Long Beach State coach, thought
of the tall, athletic kid from Fremont High in Sunnyvale, whom he'd watched
over the summer. Tulowitzki signed to play for the Dirtbags in November, and
the following month Buckley went to see his new recruit play basketball.
"His team was
outmanned, but the one thing I did see was that he ran his team," says
Buckley, now pitching coordinator for the Pittsburgh Pirates. "After that I
called the head coach and said, 'This guy's not just a special player. This guy
is going to be a billboard for the program. A leader.'"
including Dave Snow, a former coach at Long Beach State, followed Tulowitzki
closely in the spring of 2005. They watched practices, asked questions.
"They were in the process of turning the organization around without us
knowing it," Buckley says. "They were after quality people."