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Beating the Bushes

July 11, 1994
July 11, 1994

Table of Contents
July 11, 1994

Baseball
Horse Racing
Wimbledon
World Cup
NBA
SI's 40th Anniversary
Buddy Ryan
Pro Football
Racquetball
Perspective
Point After

Beating the Bushes

Duke-bound Alaskan basketball star Trajan Langdon is playing baseball in the minors

June 29, 1994
DEAR MOM AND DAD (AND TRISTA),

This is an article from the July 11, 1994 issue Original Layout

Well, I've been a member of a professional baseball team for 48 hours now, and I've already got a nickname—Pup. (I think it's because I'm the youngest on the team.) I didn't get to see Spokane at all. When I got off the red-eye from Anchorage, the guys from the Indians showed me my room at Gonzaga, put me through a workout and then, after the game against Bend, a Rockies' farm team, loaded us all on a bus to Boise. Would you believe a nine-hour bus trip? I slept most of the way, so I didn't get into Macbeth or the Pat Riley book, but I'll have plenty of time to read between workouts.

Anyway, I woke up at the Boise Ramada Inn. If Coach Krzyzewski calls, tell him not to worry, I'm doing my basketball workouts. There's a half-court down the street, and I've gone over there the last two mornings to work on my jump shot.

Doesn't look as if I'll get in a game for a few days, but I sure know I'm in the minor leagues. The P.A. announcer sounds like a game-show host, and last night they blindfolded a fan and gave him 60 seconds to crawl around in front of our dugout and grab five-dollar bills while the crowd yelled "Left!" and "Right!" It was pretty funny.

Oops, got to go—they're loading the bus to the ballpark.
Love,
Trajan

June 29, 1994
DEAR RAT,

What's happenin' back home, puke-head? Who cares? Buddy, I'm knockin' the cover off the ball, and if it were up to me, I'd be in a San Diego Padre uniform now, instead of spending another season in Spokane. My big disappointment is that we swung into Boise the week after the world's biggest bowl of mashed potatoes promotion, where someone got tossed into a vat of the stuff. But I've got Saturday to look forward to—the Flying Elvises are parachuting into the stadium.

Hey, I might be on This Week in Baseball next week. Not! This tall geek came in to interview Trajan Langdon, that basketball wiz from Alaska who's gonna play hoops at Duke this fall, and I asked him if he wouldn't rather do a story on a certain power-hitting outfielder we both know. He said sure, if I could whip Langdon one-on-one. No way. The kid was out this morning shooting baskets in his baggy red shorts, and he's just a tad quicker than yours truly, not to mention he's 6'4" and has muscles.

You won't believe how he got here. He and his dad, who's an anthropol...who's a college professor in Alaska, were playing catch last year in the parking lot of this Holiday Inn in North Carolina while they were visiting Duke, when a scout for the Pirates, who's now the Padres' scouting director, just happened to be looking out the window. Who is this guy? he wonders. So he goes down to find out, and it turns out it's Trajan Langdon, guard for the East Anchorage High Sled Dogs—or whatever they're called—the greatest basketball player in Alaska history. So this year, with Langdon headed for Duke and leading his high school team to its third state hoops title in a row, we draft him in the sixth round and swing a development deal in which Pup—that's what we call him—gets almost a quarter of a mil to play baseball for at least 30 days each summer for the next three years.

I asked Pup how he can be a pro in one sport and play college ball in another, and he starts bending my ear about how it's all O.K. as long as he doesn't pose for baseball cards or do any promotional stuff like getting his picture taken with blondes in bathing suits.

The really amazing thing is that Pup has played about as much baseball as Michael Jordan. He pitched and played shortstop in high school, but his team's season was just 12 games long, and he played only three American Legion games before signing with us. At East Anchorage this season he hit .333 with four homers and 12 RBIs, I think it was—an average week for me, of course—and threw an 11-strikeout four-hitter in the league championship, losing 1-0 to a guy who threw a no-hitter. Here, they don't want him to pitch. He'll play third—that is, if he learns where to throw the ball after knocking it down.

Gotta go! I hear long fingernails tapping ever-so-gently on my door, and it ain't Housekeeping!
Your pal,
Meat

June 30, 1994
DEAR MOM AND DAD (AND TRISTA),

I may be wearing number 27 for the Class A Spokane Indians, but I feel like I'm still in high school. I took early BP yesterday, and I chopped a few into the ground. I did spank a few, though, including one liner that knocked down the screen in front of the mound. Tim McWilliam, one of our coaches, was throwing, and he said I need to use my hips more so I can drive the ball to right. The other thing I learned is to always wear a helmet when Coach McWilliam is throwing because some of his breaking pitches break around your ear.

Our manager, Tye Waller, is a great guy. During regular BP yesterday he asked if I could pinch-hit if he needed me, and I said, "Sure, I'm ready." We lost the game 8-3 to the Boise Hawks, and he didn't use me, but I wasn't surprised. He says he wants to bring me along real slowly. Mr. Waller said, "We can do more damage than good if we rush you." I know that's wise, but it's harder than I thought, sitting on the bench.

Third base will take some getting used to. I'm O.K. fielding the ball, but looking up it's a different angle than from short. The throw just seems longer. Oh, get this. I was taking grounders yesterday, and I let an easy one go right through my legs. I was really embarrassed, but I don't think anybody was even watching.

Otherwise, everything is fine. I'm a little homesick, but I'll be all right. The guys here are great. There are no head cases or big egos on this team.
Love,
Trajan

June 30, 1994
TO THE EDITOR OF THE DURHAM DAILY BUGLE,

Don't they teach manners in journalism school? I called your sports desk when I read in USA Today that Trajan Langdon had signed a baseball contract, and the man I talked to was downright rude. So what if a "gadzillion" other loyal Blue Devil fans tied up your lines? The USA Today story didn't say if Trajan was still coming to Duke. It wasn't until I called Duke that I learned that he was still coming to Durham, thank god, and that Duke actually gains a scholarship because the Padres are going to pay Trajan's way through school.

Hey, it was bad enough last month when it looked like Coach K was ditching us for the NBA. Give us Blue Devil fans a break. Better yet, give us the news!
Sincerely,
A Disgusted Reader

July 1, 1994
DEAR MOM AND DAD (AND TRISTA),

More pine time. I'm cleared to use the Gonzaga gym to shoot and lift weights when we get back to Spokane, but I've learned that John Stockton will not be working out there. Too bad—I could've learned some moves from him.

Speaking of weights, yesterday I walked with the team from the hotel to a gym to do some lifting, which did me some good. And yes, Mom, I'm eating O.K. Before every game we get peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. I'm also filling up on pizza, spaghetti, oatmeal and pancakes. I'm trying to stay away from the fast food—it's easy to fall into bad habits on the road.
Love,
Trajan

July 3, 1994
DEAR RAT,

The Flying Elvises were great! Four guys with pompadours and white jumpsuits falling out of the sky—haven't seen a funnier-looking group since that last family picnic of yours.

The kid, Langdon, finally got in a game. Last night, Tye let him DH, and Pup went 1 for 3. Not too bad, considering he's never faced pro pitching. Plus, he's got a lot on his mind, like what he'll be taking at Duke this fall—writing, algebra, chemistry and African-American history. He says he wants to major in engineering. (I was trying to remember what you majored in—was it lifesaving?) Truth is, at 18, he seems a lot older than the rest of us. Our rightfielder, Jason Tyrus, asked Trajan what kind of car he was going to buy with his signing bonus, and Pup said, "I'm not going to have a car my first year at Duke. I want to stay focused on basketball and classes."

Between you and me, Rat, I don't think the Padres sent Langdon here to learn baseball. I think he's here to teach us how to act like big leaguers.
Your pal,
Meat

PHOTOBRAD MANGINIf Langdon follows through on his present pursuits, he could be the U.S.'s next two-sport star.PHOTODAMIAN STROHMEYER[See caption above.]TWO PHOTOSBRAD MANGINKrzyzewski (right) won't look kindly on Langdon if he bobbles basketballs as he has baseballs.PHOTODAMIAN STROHMEYER[See caption above.]