The Oakland A's had high expectations for Grant Desme following a breakout 2009 season, including a potential invite to Spring Training. On Friday, the California native told the club he had other plans.
Desme, a former second-round pick and one of Oakland's top outfield prospects, announced Friday morning that he is retiring from baseball and becoming a priest.
"I love the game, but I aspire to higher things," Desme said during a media conference call. "I really kept this to myself, I kept it from the baseball community. Not many people knew."
The slugging 23-year-old, who won Arizona Fall League MVP honors in 2009, said he knew he was likely done with baseball when he finished his stint in Arizona two months ago.
"I do love the game, but I have no regrets," Desme said. "I called yesterday to inform [A's general manager Billy Beane] of my decision, knowing I'd be done with baseball for the rest of my life after that call. I was able to experience a great amount of peace because of it -- it reconfirmed my decision. I think I'd detached myself from baseball a while ago."
The 6-foot-2 outfielder said the team was "very understanding and supportive" in his decision.
Desme enjoyed a breakout season in '09, batting .288 with 31 home runs and 89 RBIs in 131 games between Class A Kane County and Class A Advanced Stockton. His 40 stolen bases made him Minor League Baseball's only 30-30 player in '09.
"Last year before the season, I had a really strong feel of calling and strong desire to follow it," said Desme, who began the season in the Midwest League. "I guess in a way I fought it. God blessed me, I had a better year than I could have ever imagined. It reconfirmed my desire even more. I wasn't at peace with where I was at, I felt I was called to more."
The outfielder said he'd been contemplating his career as a priest for over a year. A separated shoulder in 2008 limited him to just two games, but more importantly, it gave him time to reflect on his life and goals.
"My injuries were the biggest blessings that God's ever given me," he said. "For my entire life, baseball's been my life. I've defined myself as a baseball player. When it was taken away, it was kind of an eye opener, a real shock. Either way, if I played in the big leagues and became a Hall of Famer, you never know when it's going to end. I started doing some soul searching about who I was, and this is where its led me."
The former slugger visited St. Michael's Abbey of the Norbertine Fathers in Silverado, Calif. following the AFL season, and that's where he'll begin what he hopes is a 10-year journey to becoming a Catholic priest.
Desme, who said his relationships with teammates in the Minors helped steer him toward the priesthood, gained increased attention in Arizona. He was the AFL Player of the Week on Oct. 29, was named an AFL Rising Star on Nov. 2 and was selected to the AFL All-Prospect Team on Dec. 9. He began the AFL season on a huge power surge, hitting 10 homers in 10 games by the end of October. He led the AFL with 72 total bases while ranking second in RBIs (27) and runs scored (30).
"Grant Desme performed far beyond his experience during his six weeks in Arizona this fall," AFL director Steve Cobb said in November. "For a young man who has yet to face Double-A and Triple-A competition, his success against an array of the game's top prospects was remarkable."
Despite his success on the field, Desme said he never considered trying to stay in baseball while dedicating himself to his faith.
"I wanted to give my life completely to God for love, for everything he has done for me," Desme said. "I'm very thankful for that. Something like this is very little in comparison to what he has done for me.
"It's about 10 year process of studying, so in reality, this is kind of a comparison," he added. "It's like I'm re-entering the Minor Leagues."