Despite being selected by the Braves in the 46th round of the 2001 draft out of Stagg High School in Stockton, Calif., left-handed pitcher Dallas Braden found himself a rare type of ballplayer – sought after by the professional ranks, but with nowhere to go. to go when it came to prom.
Braden and his grandmother, who had taken him in after his mother died in his senior year of high school, were looking for options. With a difficult transcript and despite its draft status, a fastball that didn’t jump off the page, they showed up on the doorstep of American River College hoping for a chance.
“I was 5’9″, 140 pounds, I wasn’t physically mature,” Braden said. Class stuff reflected that I wasn’t mentally mature at the time, or that I didn’t. I hadn’t prioritized correctly, so junior college was the obvious path.”
Braden found the maturity he needed during his time at American River, both on and off the mound. Two years at junior college led to a year at Texas Tech, where he entered the Red Raider rotation as a junior and again caught the eye of professional scouts. Oakland knocked him out in the 24th round, and despite low draft status and a lower bonus to match (Braden signed for $15,000), the A’s had selected a man on a mission.
“I was there to try to take care of business, to get business done as quickly as possible,” Braden said. “When I got on the mound at the pro level, I wanted to hit everybody, I wanted to embarrass people. I didn’t want a 4 or 5 pitch at bat, I wanted it to be 3 pitch.”
Round 24 impressed enough in his first stint in pro ball to be sent to High-A for his first full season. Not a glamorous mission for most, just another step up to the show, but for Braden it was a blessing, as the A ball club at this level was the hometown team of Stockton Port—Braden.
He wasn’t just a man on a mission that season when it came to performing on the hill. Braden loves his hometown (he has the 209 area code tattoo to prove it), and upon returning to Stockton as a professional, he took it upon himself to make an impact in his community.
“You dance with whoever brought you,” Braden said, speaking of his beloved hometown. “There was no way I could live at home during the season, live at home during the offseason and not do what I believe is my part to try to help people – to try to help my community.
He continued: “I hate to see people feel like they can’t survive or support themselves (…) I don’t want that to happen in the neighborhood where I live because I can do something about it, and if you can, why wouldn’t you?”
Stockton’s favorite son did enough off the court during his time there to inspire the Ports to create the Dallas Braden Community Award, and did enough on the court both there and in later stoppages. MiLB to qualify for the big leagues before his 24th birthday, making his debut in April 2007.
Braden’s strategy of running things as quickly as possible, the punch-for-everyone strategy didn’t seem to lead to as much success on the show as it had the miners. Although Oakland has a young starting rotation (his anchor being a 26-year-old Joe Blanton), Braden received experienced wisdom from right-hander Dan Haren – who said, much like Crash Davis told a young Nuke LaLoosh, whom Braden had to stop trying to punch everyone.
Athletics trade Sean Manaea to Padres for two more prospects
The A’s continued their offseason dismantling on Sunday, trading Sean Manaea to the Padres for two more prospects.
Braden adapted, started to induce weak contact, and gradually began to cement himself in Oakland by throwing quality innings. In May 2010, he was a quality big league arm, honing his craft through and through every five days, even when that fifth day fell on Mother’s Day, a day that Braden and his grandmother had been largely ignored since her mother’s death.
“My grandmother and I, up until this day, had lived on a 364-day calendar,” Braden said.
On this day however, May 9, 2010, Braden clicked. With as little stress as possible, he mowed down the Tampa Bay Rays roster, pitching the 19th perfect game in MLB history, best remembered for his embrace with his grandmother on the field after the final.
“It was so cool, because she got to talk about Mother’s Day with a smile on her face,” Braden said. “If I have an ego about anything, I feel like I was magical in the sense that I was able to give my grandmother back that calendar day that we missed.”
Arm injuries would force Braden out of baseball after the 2011 season, but his colorful personality has kept him in the game ever since. In the latest episode of “From Phenom to the Farm,” former big league southpaw Dallas Braden talks about finding accountability in junior college, the personality you’re allowed to have as a minor leaguer, and throw a perfect game.