Former No. 1 picks reflect, offer up advice
Enjoy the experience, say first picks Price, Griffey, Strasburg
When the First-Year Player Draft begins at 7 p.m. ET on Monday, one player will hear his name called before any other, instantly becoming the newest member of an elite fraternity. And those who came before him, from Stephen Strasburg to the recently retired Ken Griffey Jr., have plenty of advice to offer the upcoming No. 1 overall pick.
Eighteen of the previous 45 No. 1 picks have made an All-Star Game roster, and there is no doubt that the reputation of being the No. 1 pick comes with a certain amount of expectation and a little extra pressure. For that reason, Rays left-hander David Price said the most important advice he could offer this year's top selection -- expected to be catcher-outfielder Bryce Harper of the College of Southern Nevada, by the Washington Nationals -- is simply to appreciate every part of the experience and don't take anything for granted.
"Enjoy it. It goes quick. I was drafted three years ago, and it feels like two weeks ago," said Price, the top overall pick in 2007. "You can rush it if you want, but enjoy it."
Price said that Tigers outfielder Johnny Damon, a first-round Draftee by the Royals in 1992, gave him the same advice before his Spring Training debut, and it helped him stay grounded during his quick rise to the Major Leagues from Class A ball in 2008, his first professional season. One especially enjoyable aspect of the Minor League experience for Price, however, was his teams' penchant for winning. Price went 12-1 during his time in the Minors in 2008.
"I definitely enjoyed my time, but that was because I was with a great group of guys at every stop I made, and I was on winning teams," said Price, who was the fastest No. 1 pick to play in a World Series, which he did later in 2008 when the Rays faced the Phillies. "A lot of Minor League teams, it's a different group of guys, you don't win, you don't have fun, the traveling's terrible.
"Triple-A, you get to start flying. That's kind of your first taste of the big leagues. I got pretty lucky with this organization."
Strasburg, who has quickly made his way from being the No. 1 pick of the 2009 Draft to his Major League debut for the Nationals, scheduled for Tuesday, echoed Price's advice.
"Definitely just enjoy it. You're going to have your ups and downs, but try not to focus just on everything that everyone cares about, which is your performance and the wins and losses," Strasburg said. "You also want to enjoy everything that happens to you and getting to know the players, coaches and all of the people that you meet along the way. I think I've enjoyed that a lot more than being successful on the field."
Griffey, who retired last week after nearly 22 seasons, said that being the top pick isn't the most important thing for whomever the Nationals decide to pick -- it's how he takes advantage of the opportunity before him and if he is able to make the most of his career. Griffey, drafted No. 1 by the Mariners in 1987, worked his way up from the Minors as a 17-year-old and became a regular starter for the Mariners by the time he was 19.
"Other than the fact that you get more chances than everybody, that's it," Griffey said of being the top pick. "The key is just getting drafted. My dad was a [29th-round] Draft choice, and my brother went in the 42nd. If you get an opportunity, that's all you can ask for. It doesn't matter which round."
While the first pick in 2010 could certainly benefit from the words of wisdom from three former No. 1 picks who made it to the Major Leagues quickly and with relative ease, he might also want to heed the advice of Tim Beckham, who was taken by Tampa Bay with the top overall pick in 2008 and is currently playing for High-A Charlotte.
"I'd tell him to stay humble. This game will humble you quick," Beckham said. "Go about your business the same way you did to make it here and be the No. 1 pick. Go about it the same way. Don't get cocky."
Beckham also said he would tell this year's No. 1 choice to keep his head on straight, be careful about the people he surrounds himself with and take care of his body. And who gave him that advice? Price, a fellow member of the first-pick fraternity that is soon to expand to 46 players.
Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.