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Everyone knew about Esteves

By JOHN COTEY

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 7, 2001


photo
[Times photo: Janel Schroeder-Norton]
River Ridge shortstop Greg Esteves was the only county high school player to be drafted this year.
The major-league draft passed through town Tuesday and Wednesday -- hey, is that a tumbleweed? -- and left Ridgewood's Derek Kuryliw, Land O'Lakes' Brian and Jeff Baisley and Zephyrhills' Danny Wardell untouched.

But not unwanted. They have college scholarships, at least. Though probably not ready to cry in their milk over the lack of love shown by the pros, surely there had to be a tiny bit of sadness when San Francisco took Patrick J. McGinnislee of Missouri with the 1,454th pick, officially ending the draft.

If only there were 1,455 picks, then just maybe ... awww, nevermind. It wasn't Pasco County's day.

It was Greg Esteves' day.

For those who don't know, and there are a few, Esteves is a shortstop and an outstanding athlete who coaches say could have been a dandy wide receiver, a starting point guard or even a top high jumper.

He plays for River Ridge. Ring a bell?

Here's more: He didn't make the All-Sunshine Athletic Conference team (the aforementioned Kuryliw and Baisley play shortstop, too), and of the 29 River Ridge and Ridgewood players signed by Pasco-Hernando Community College this spring, he was not one of them.

What he is, however, is a major-league draft pick, and the only Pasco County high school kid selected.

That's right. Close your mouth. Pick yourself back up.

Greg Esteves, 32nd round, 988th overall, Milwaukee Brewers.

"My mom was pretty excited; you could say she was beside herself," said Esteves, who sounded much less excited than Mom had been, which he blamed on a bad day at work at the YMCA.

Which is fine, because there were others who were excited for him. Buddy Chad Justus was the one who heard the pick on the Internet and immediately called Esteves at home. Mom Lori Peterson said he was at work. When Esteves returned the call five minutes later, he still had no idea.

"I told him congratulations and he said, "what are you talking about?,"' Justus said. "I knew he would be drafted."

Turns out that was the theme of Esteves' day. Everyone seemed to know he would be drafted.

Call his coach, Jack Homko, and tell him, and he says, "He was drafted? Milwaukee, right?"

Call his best friend, Joe Savino, and tell him, and he says, "He was drafted? Milwaukee, right?"

Every time Milwaukee's pick rolled around, Justus knew Esteves' name was coming.

Everyone knew?

Well, except for stupid me, who decided to ask scouts about the kid with 12 homers (Kuryliw) or the rocket arm and bloodlines (pick your Baisley) or the mad bomber (Wardell). I wasn't the only fool -- every draft analyst and high school coach around was oblivious. Glance at the prep baseball radar screen and Esteves is ... well, where the heck is he?

"Well, it wasn't a surprise, at least not to me," Mom said. "I've always known that Greg loves baseball like no other kid I know. It's a huge part of his life. This is like watching your son's dreams come true. We believed Greg had the ability. It was just getting the rest of the world to believe it."

Or at least a small part of it, say the southeast corner of Wisconsin. Again, according to everyone, Milwaukee Brewers scout Tom McNamara noticed Esteves at the Dunedin Easter Tournament. Esteves hit over .500 there, hit three triples, showed off his speed. McNamara paid a few more visits, and every time he did the Knight performed royally.

"Since that Dunedin tournament, Greg was playing awesome ball," Savino said. "He had the big day when the scout was there. I guess he had something that the scout was looking for."

But nothing Pasco-Hernando Community College was looking for. When coach Steve Winterling went around signing Esteves' boyhood friends (Tommy Dillon), little league teammates (Kuryliw) and fellow Royal Knights (Billy Phillips), he yearned to join them.

PHCC chose not to bite. Esteves bit ... his tongue. Today, he's probably sticking it out in the general direction of PHCC.

"Why they didn't sign him?," Homko asked himself. "I don't know why they didn't."

"He was pretty upset about that," Savino said.

As for Esteves, he chooses his words carefully. "That's where I had hoped to play," he said. "He signed Tommy Dillon and Billy (Phillips) right in front of me. I've grown up with them my entire life. I wanted to play with the kids I grew up with.

"I wasn't ready to leave home yet ... but I am now."

If he doesn't sign with Milwaukee, and chances are the Brewers drafted him with the hopes of following his career for one season of college ball, Esteves will leave home for Panama City, where he has committed to Gulf Coast Community College.

He'll leave with a giant dose of redemption. He can play ball at the next level. Heck, some people even think he could be a professional baseball player. They said as much Wednesday afternoon.

It was Greg Esteves' day.

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