Sizemore grew up
playing sports in the Seattle suburb of Mill Creek with the same uncompromising
effort he gives now. When he was five years old, Grady would tag out his
three-year-old brother, Corey, so often in baseball games in the family's
cul-de-sac that his father would suggest he let Corey reach base just once in a
"Oh, so you
want me to cheat?" Grady would reply.
Says the elder
Sizemore, "He only knew one way to play: the right way."
After hitting .457
as a senior at Cascade High School and setting the school rushing record in
football, Sizemore was prepared to play both sports at Washington until the
Montreal Expos selected him in the third round of the 2000 draft. "We were
coming off a Rose Bowl year," recalls former University of Washington
football coach Rick Neuheisel, who's now the offensive coordinator for the
Baltimore Ravens, "and our quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo was moving on to
the NFL. I thought [ Sizemore] might be the next Tuiasosopo. He had great
instincts, is a great competitor and has a very athletic body. If he'd been a
track guy, he'd have been a decathlete."
an insurance-claim investigator, and his mother, a bookkeeper, calculated it
would take a $2 million bonus to make it worth forgoing college. "After
taxes and expenses, a million dollars was enough to fall back on if it didn't
work out," says Big Grady. The Expos gave him the two million.
"He was always
going to play baseball eventually," the elder Sizemore says. "I knew he
was going to be a major leaguer from the time he was eight years old."
his pro career with the Gulf Coast League Expos in Bradenton, and on June 27,
2002, almost two years to the day from when he was drafted, he was traded to
Cleveland. Then Expos G.M. Omar Minaya, operating a franchise mentioned as a
candidate for contraction, but sitting only five games out of the wild-card
spot, shipped off veteran first baseman Lee Stevens, Sizemore and two other
prospects who would become productive major leaguers, pitcher Cliff Lee and
infielder Brandon Phillips, to get pitcher Bartolo Colon. (Colon won 10 games
in just half a season for Montreal, which finished well out of the playoff hunt
with 83 wins, before he was traded to the White Sox.)
was hitting .250, .260 in the Florida State League," says Minaya, now the
Mets' G.M. "We knew he was a good athlete and had played football.
"You have to
understand, every team in baseball was preparing a draft board because the
Expos players were going to be dispersed. [Class] A ballplayers or even Double
A players didn't matter because we were looking at contraction at the end of
the season. It was a no-brainer for me."
Sizemore had hit
only three home runs in 912 at bats in the Montreal farm system, but
Cleveland's reports on him--especially those from farm director Tony LaCava,
who had worked the previous season as a national cross-checker for
Montreal--raved about his athleticism and maturity. "He was the most
disciplined teenage hitter I have ever seen," says LaCava.
"Twenty-pitch nights were not uncommon for him. And he played the game the
right way from Day One. He ran hard 90 feet to first base all the time and had
a quiet confidence and determination. The package was all there."