To be an Angel or Not?

Summer of decision… Pros or college debate

Roy Hobbs Baseball

Gary and Darren Fischer
Photo courtesy of the Fischer FamilyMLB roulette is not over for Gary and Darren Fischer

When Gary Fischer fell short of his dream to play professional baseball, he didn’t walk away. Instead, he embraced what baseball could continue to be – something he could love for a lifetime, something that could enrich his relationship with friends, something he could pass on to his sons.

So earlier this year, when his youngest son Darren got that opportunity that Gary didn’t have – the chance to sign a professional contract – Gary found himself in a very difficult position.

Following his senior year in high school, Darren was chosen this past summer as a left-handed pitcher by the California Angels in the 46th round of the draft.
“It was difficult seeing him be so excited, and me being so excited, that he got the chance,” Gary said. “Because I knew in the back of my mind what he didn’t know – that being a 46th rounder, they weren’t going to be offering a lot.”

Talks with the Angels went on most of the summer. Gary and Darren talked about the pros and cons of signing, or of going to a junior college program. But when the Aug. 15 signing deadline arrived, Gary stepped back and told Darren it was his decision to make.

“I knew signing now probably wasn’t the best thing,” Gary said, “but it would be very tough for me to make a decision for him. I just couldn’t do that.”
Darren said getting drafted out of high school was, “a feeling like none other.”

“Every kid growing up wants to be a pro athlete,” he said. “Me and my dad worked hard for this together. He put a lot of time in with me. Getting drafted was my goal through high school, so when it happened, it was a big relief.”

Then came the ordeal of making a decision.

“He put his two cents in here and there,” Darren said. “But he let me decide. And of course a kid just wants to sign and start playing … .”

But the decision was to put a professional career on hold, go the College of Central Florida, and improve Darren’s position in the draft in the future.

“He decided to bet on himself,” Gary said proudly. “He decided that he can get better.”

Gary, who will play in the 2011 Roy Hobbs World Series for the New Jersey Twins in the Veterans Division and the Bergen Yankees in the Masters Division, is one of the most versatile players in the tournament. He pitches, catches and plays the infield. And Gary’s sons don’t know a time when their father didn’t play ball.

After high school, he played for York College in Pennsylvania. One summer he played in the pre-cursor to the Cape Cod League, and several professional teams were looking. He wasn’t drafted, but talks were going well with the Brewers when an eye injury cut off the discussions. He had opportunities in independent leagues, but family obligations were taking over. He was sorely tempted, he said, to try out as a replacement player during the Major League strike in 1994, “but I had two babies and a new house and I couldn’t take the chance. But I continued to find a way to play baseball, to this day.”

He owns an indoor batting cage operation as a side business, and his sons have grown up watching him play. “I felt like I was their role model growing up,” he said, “I see different things in each boy that I do as a player. I think its helped shape their character.”

“He plays hard,” Darren says of his dad. “He plays like he knows the game. He’s confident, not cocky, but confident. I try to take things like that into my game. He definitely knows what he’s talking about. Both on the field and off the field, he’s responsible for who I am today.”

Darren says he and his dad are both comfortable with his decision to go back to school.

“We both know this isn’t over,” he said. “It’s just now that I’ve got even more to prove. I’ve got a little bit of chip on my shoulder, and I’m going to work hard to show that we did the right thing.”