By STONE FREEMAN -- It is every little leaguer's dream to one day toe the rubber in the MLB. For Warwick native and former Continental Little Leaguer Michael King those dreams are quickly becoming a reality.
It is every little leaguer’s dream to one day toe the rubber in the MLB. The feeling that one-day you’ll be able to see you name called at the MLB Draft or perhaps even wear the name of your favorite childhood team striped across your chest.
For Warwick native and former Continental Little Leaguer Michael King those dreams are becoming a reality. King, a Bishop Hendricken graduate class of 2013, was drafted by the Miami Marlins in the 12th round of the 2016 MLB Draft out of Boston College. Last November, less then two years after being drafted, King was traded to the team he grew up cheering for: the New York Yankees.
The trade was the first move made by former Yankee great Derek Jeter who is the current CEO and part owner of the Marlins. The official trade sent King and bonus money to New York in exchange for infielder Garrett Cooper and left-handed pitcher Caleb Smith. King is currently in Tampa, Florida at the Yankees minor league spring training facilities.
“When it actually happens it’s kind of weird,” King said about his trade this offseason. “I’m so used to the Marlins way of teaching, their coaches, their facilities, all the teammates, players and friends that I’ve met. It was exciting when I first heard the news and then it reality hit that I am the new kid coming in and have to learn everyone’s name and the Yankee way of doing things.”
When the trade happened, King was at the GLG Athletic Performance facility in Lincoln, RI getting his off-season lifting in when his phone rang. The call was from his friend and Yankee area scout, Matt Hyde. “I was thinking he was calling to just say hey, just a normal friendly phone call,” King said. “I ignored it and was just going to call him back.”
Following the missed phone call from Hyde, King received another call from an unknown number from Jupiter, Florida, where the Marlins spring training facilities are. King said he let the call go to voicemail. He listened to the voicemail and it was from the Marlins.
“I didn’t know it (the phone number) so I let it go to voicemail,” King said. “The voicemail was from the Marlins director of player developments. He just said, ‘I got something for you. Give me a call back.’”
When King called back it was Brett West, the then interim director of player development for the Marlins, on the phone. “He just said, ‘Good news for the Yankees, bad news for us,’” King said. “[He said] ‘You got traded to them. They made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. Good luck with everything.’ I remember sitting there at the gym and saying to Angelo St. Laurent (friend and Hendricken assistant baseball coach), ‘I just got traded to the Yankees.’”
King was then scheduled to provide a lesson to a high school student but had to turn him down last minute because he had some pretty important phone calls to make and had to tell his parents. “It had happened so suddenly and I wasn’t expecting it,” King said.
King said one of the first calls he made after finding out about the trade was to Hyde. He said that Hyde was one of the first to know and had been advocating to Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman on King’s behalf since the draft process. Hyde told King that he got a call from Cashman. “We got your boy,” Cashman told Hyde.
As a child, King faced a tough decision: whether to cheer for the Red Sox or the Yankees. King was born in Rochester, New York and his mother’s side of the family are all Yankee fans. While his father, a Boston, Massachusetts native and a life long Red Sox fan, tried to raise his son a Boston Red Sox fan. The pinstripes would prevail thanks to one night at the American League Championship Series in 2004.
“I ended up going to a game with my mom,” King recalled. “It was ALCS, Yankees vs. Red Sox. My dad had to work that night and he had tickets so he sent me with my mom. Mariano Riviera closed it out and the Yankees won. I ended up falling in love with the Yankees that game. Then, coming home now a Yankees fan [I remember] my dad hating it so much. That made me like the Yankees a little more.”
That love for the Yankees shifted over time to the love of baseball. King said he noticed the shift while in playing college baseball at Boston College. “I wouldn’t say I have a favorite team now,” King said. “I used to say the Marlins were my favorite team when I was on their team. Now, its more just players and the mindset of different situations that happen in games. That’s what I like to see now.”
King has found himself in some situations that most aspiring big leaguers would only dream about. He’s seen the likes of C.C. Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka throw bullpen sessions at the Yankees minor league spring training facilities. He’s even got to meet Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who received an invite from the Yankees to spring training. However, through it all he stays composed knowing one day he’ll be at their level.
“I threw in a game the other day and Aaron Judge was playing left field just to get some reps in,” King said. “I didn’t even mention it to my mom and she was freaked once I told it to her a week or two later. She told me that that’s the stuff she wants to hear because it’s so cool. Because I want to be there someday so I try to picture myself there all the time, that takes away how big these guys are.”
The dream of being drafted to the pros has already come true for King. The unexpected reality of being traded within the MLB has become true, too. The dream doesn’t stop there. King said he has a plan for what’s next this season and onward as a minor league baseball player.
“As much as I want to be in the big leagues tomorrow I can tell that there are a lot of things that I still need to work on to get there,” King said. “I’m hoping to start in high ‘A’ and finish the season in double ‘A’. That’s one of the bigger steps. Anybody playing in double ‘A’ has the ability or the chance to get called up straight to the big leagues.”
King expects to know what destination is next by March 29. Being a part of a new organization means he is not sure what their plans for him will be. He said that the Yankees is keeping him as a starting pitcher. However, he hopes to be in the Yankees major league spring training camp by this time next season on his way to breaking into the major league. For now, he plans to polish off his arsenal of pitches to continue to prepare for the bigs. “I want to make sure that I’m ready to be there [in the MLB] instead of being thrown in and know I’m not ready for it,” he said.