How could Josh Sharpless not love baseball?
So as he grew from an infant to a young boy to a teenager, the boy from Beaver, Pa., fell in love with the game the same way the rest of his family had.
He pitched. He pitched well. He sprouted to 6-foot-5. Then it happened. The Allegheny College star was plucked right from college by his hometown team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Twenty-fourth round pick or not, Sharpless was being paid to live a dream.
Then it all came crashing down.
He reached the big leagues in a mere 3½ seasons - even pitching well in 2006, posting a 1.50 ERA in 14 outings with the Pirates - but his career soon stalled. The Pirates' coaches didn't care much for his mechanics. So they forced him to change.
And along with his confidence, Sharpless lost that burning fire inside for the game he loved.
"I got to the big leagues and baseball was a job and more of a business thing," Sharpless, 28, said in a telephone interview Monday. "Sure, I was having fun in the sense of being awed that you're in the big leagues. But as far as stepping on the hill and throwing, it seemed like a business."
So now, out of work in an economic climate that's killing minor league veterans, Sharpless has turned to the York Revolution. The relief pitcher signed with the Revs on Monday, joining former Revs Matt Padgett, Luis Taveras and Rayner Bautista in the latest round of club signings for the 2009 season.
According to a MLB.com report, Sharpless came to spring training camp with the Pirates out of shape last year. And it didn't take long for general manager Neal Huntington to make an example out of him. Sharpless was the first pitcher optioned to the minors and was soon released.
"To come out and compete with the numbers that we have, he didn't put himself in the best position to be able to do that," Huntington told MLB.com last March. "If we were in a normal situation with not 30 pitchers in camp, he probably would have been fine. But we've got too large a number of pitchers that everyone needed to be ready to go right out of the chute. He didn't put himself in that situation."
Sharpless, the owner of a career 2.82 ERA in the minors, declined to comment on his relationship with Huntington Monday. Instead, after a brief stint at Double-A Connecticut (Giants) last year in which he pitched about every five days, Sharpless wants to move on.
He hopes to rediscover his passion for the game after watching Giants' prospects blow by him on the way up the organizational ladder. The Revs, who now have 16 players under contract - including eight pitchers (seven with major league experience) - are more than happy to oblige Sharpless with that opportunity.
"He's been there before and he knows when things are going good. He knows what that's like," said Adam Gladstone, the Revolution's director of baseball operations.
Padgett, Taveras and Bautista are all familiar faces for York baseball fans. Padgett, 31, hit .303 with nine homers and 56 RBIs last year while playing primarily third base and the outfield. Meanwhile, Taveras, 33, hit .245 with 11 homers and 41 RBIs in a platoon role at catcher.
Bautista, 30, was York's starting shortstop in the 2007 inaugural season and after playing in Italy last year, he returns to York to offer the club flexibility. Bautista can play a number of infield positions and hit .299 with 36 doubles and 64 RBIs in '07.
Padgett, whose career was derailed by a freak elbow injury he sustained in a collision at first base in 2006, served as his own agent this offseason, calling several affiliated teams on his own. Although it was against his modest nature, Padgett was encouraged by some of the feedback.
"I tried to take it on myself and do a lot of the leg work," Padgett said recently. "I made contacts with a lot of guys. ... I feel like maybe if I put together a couples good months, something could happen if someone needs a player."
Reach Jeffrey A. Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-5406. Read his Revolution blog, "Revolution Rumblings," at www.revolutionrumblings.com.