February 15, 2017 6:13 AM
The third time getting drafted was still not the charm for UCSB baseball star Bill Geivett during the Orwellian Year of 1984.
The Chicago Cubs had just selected the junior third baseman in the 11th round of the MLB June Amateur Draft, but Geivett had his keen batting eye focused on something even more futuristic.
“I wanted a college degree,” said the Gauchos’ all-time leading hitter. “I felt like baseball was the route to getting that, but I never really thought about professional baseball until after college.”
The irony is that he would make his life in professional baseball as a player, scout, and finally as a front-office executive – and then he turned it into a round-tripper by using his advanced education to write a book about it.
“Do You Want to Work in Baseball? Inside Baseball Operations,” Geivett’s look at the inner-workings of professional baseball, hit the bookstores just last month. It’s available at Amazon.com or by going to the author’s Web site:insidebaseballoperations.com.
He began writing the 354-page, how-to book soon after leaving the Colorado Rockies as their senior vice president of Major League operations in 2014.
“I’d always try to be helpful to people who were trying to get into the industry,” Geivett said. “They’d email me or call me, and I’d give as much advice as I could. I was finally telling people, ‘I should just write a book about it.’
“I was just joking around, but then I realized that it would actually be fun to write a book about it. I’d constantly see the same type of mistake being made over and over, and I thought I could be just the man to help somebody.”
Geivett had been just like any other boy in Sacramento, dreaming of becoming the next Sal Bando as he watched “The Swingin’ Oakland A’s” dominate baseball during the early 1970s.
He became a schoolboy star, getting drafted in 1982 by the Los Angeles Dodgers and again in 1983 by the Chicago White Sox after his sophomore season at Sacramento City College. But he was also offered a full scholarship by both Cal and UCSB.
“Once I went down and visited Goleta, I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” Geivett said. “That whole experience there, and the credibility that a degree from UC Santa Barbara gives you with people in the business world, certainly put me on the right path.”
He set nine Gaucho records, which included best batting average for a season (.412 in 1985) and career (.402), and was named a third-team All-American 1985. The California Angels picked him in the 13th round of the MLB Draft just as he was accepting a bachelor’s degree from UCSB.
“It was really exciting in those days – those were the Hammerhead years,” he said, referring to the student rooter group that turned Gaucho baseball into the talk of college baseball during the 1980s. “I fell into that little sweet spot of great years for the program, and which coach (Andrew) Checketts has been bringing back.
“I still know all those Hammerheads, and I went back to enjoy the College World Series with them last season. The Gauchos weren’t going there without us, even if we weren’t going to get to play.”
Geivett’s own playing career came to a crashing halt during the summer of 1988 while playing for the Angels’ Double-A team at Midland, Tex.
“I was running to first base and I tried to duck under a tag,” he recalled. “I hit the base very firmly while leaning over and blew out everything in my knee.
“The base doesn’t tend to move in those situations.”
After two surgeries, which included only the fourth knee reconstruction ever attempted at Centinela Hospital, Geivett decided to point his baseball career into a different direction.
He served as an assistant coach at both Loyola Marymount and then Long Beach State, earning a master’s degree at Azusa Pacific in the process, while fully expecting to “make college coaching my career.”
But then the New York Yankees came looking for a scout in 1991, and Geivett was back in pro baseball.
“I had some tremendous mentors during my career and life,” he said. “I started out with Bill Livesey, who was arguably the best scouting and player development director ever during the Yankees’ modern era. In the book, I talk about how they trained me.”
Other mentors included Felipe Alou during a stint as player development director with the Montreal Expos and Tommy Lasorda when he served as assistant general manager with the Dodgers. One of his fondest moments in the game came while walking around Vero Beach, Fla. with Lasorda one night during spring training.
“Tommy was telling me stories, pointing out where all the players’ barracks had been,” Geivett said. “He talked about how Branch Rickey would hold these meetings with 700 players, talking about how to throw a curve ball or run the bases.
“He was giving me a mental picture of it all.”
Geivett’s book begins with an anecdote from Baseball’s Winter Meetings of 1999, when he and Lasorda “grabbed this kid who had been looking for an interview.” Lasorda remained quiet while Geivett peppered the interviewee with questions.
“But when I’m done, Tommy just starts screaming at the kid, going, ‘I can just tell that you’re not tough enough! That you can’t handle the long hours, and you can’t pay the price you need to pay to work in baseball!'” Geivett recalled. “The kid then stands up and says, ‘Hey Tommy, you’re wrong – I am tough enough, and I will be in baseball.
“The kid leaves, and Tommy and I agree that, yeah, he’s tough enough to make it.”
That kid is now working in the Colorado Rockies organization.
Geivett’s longest stint came with the Rockies, from 2000-14, which included a magical run to the 2007 World Series. The Rockies also made it to the playoffs in 2009 with a starting day lineup that had been entirely groomed in the minor league system that Geivett had developed.
But runs to the postseason aren’t Geivett’s fondest memories in the game.
“Add it all together and that doesn’t even compete with every single time we’d bring up a young kid for his Major League debut,” he said. “I’d see him or hear about him even before we drafted him, and then I’d see him all throughout his minor league career and, in most cases, meet his parents and even become part of their families.
“Being part of the process, and then watching that dream become reality for him and his parents, was always the biggest takeaway for me. The World Series and those things are nice, but they pale in comparison to helping someone realize his boyhood dream.”
And now he’s trying to help other baseball dreams become reality.
Mark Patton’s column appears on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org