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One Sizemore Fits All
TOM VERDUCCI
May 14, 2007
?POWER ?SPEED ?ON-BASE ?RANGE ?DRIVE No mere throwback, Grady Sizemore has already made history with his unique skill set
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May 14, 2007

One Sizemore Fits All

?POWER ?SPEED ?ON-BASE ?RANGE ?DRIVE No mere throwback, Grady Sizemore has already made history with his unique skill set

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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 while.

"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."

Sizemore's father, 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."

Sizemore started 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.)

"[ Sizemore] 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."

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