ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – In each of his first three years as a professional baseball player, Brett Graves has graduated to the next minor-league level, from rookie ball to single-A then double-A in 2017. The St. Charles born and raised right-hander will be in Jupiter, Fl. next month for the start of Miami Marlins Spring Training.
Back in his hometown for the offseason Graves, joined our Chris Hrabe in the KMOX studio to talk about the his St. Charles roots and his ascension in the minor leagues.
He was a Missouri Class-4 State Champion his senior year at Francis Howell, then was a 26th-round draft pick by the St. Louis Cardinals out of high school.
“I had to turn that down, which is definitely a tough thing for an 18-year-old Cardinals fan to do,” Graves says. “But I made my way to Mizzou and played there for three years.”
He was a part of Mizzou’s last Big 12 Championship in 2012, before the school switched to the SEC and in his junior season he led the pitching staff in innings, starts and strikeouts. Then in 2015 he was drafted again, this time in the third round by the Seattle Mariners.
“I thought Mizzou had everything I needed to make me a better player and I’d say a ton of guys could attest to that, and probably thought that going in and it definitely worked out for them being able to move on from Mizzou too,” Graves says.
He’s following in the footsteps of, most notably, Chesterfield-native, Mizzou-Made, three-time Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer, but also recent MLB pitchers Aaron Crow and Kyle Gibson who both played at Mizzou. Then there’s another future star, Tanner Houck, who was drafted 24th overall by the Boston Red Sox in last year’s draft.
Before Graves was an 18-year-old draft pick, he was also the starting quarterback for the Vikings football team. He threw for 24 touchdowns and ran for another nine as a senior, which put him on the map for some football scholarships. But he knew his future was in baseball.
It was after his first varsity start – as a sophomore in a playoff game – that he knew football wasn’t going to be his career.
“I remember telling my dad, like those guys are big, and those guys are fast,” Graves says. “And we always joke about that being the instance that I said ‘I think I’ll play baseball.’”
But just like he preaches to the young baseball players he trains with in the winter, he never specialized in a single sport, and instead kept playing football.
“I had plenty of people telling me my senior year, I shouldn’t be playing football,” Graves says. “At that time I was committed to go to Mizzou, I knew that the draft was a real option for me the next year, but I’ve told people time and time again that there was nothing I’d rather be doing than playing football in the fall of my senior year on Friday nights.”
This winter, Graves was selected in the Rule-5 Draft by the Miami Marlins. Seattle chose not to protect Graves with a spot on its 40-man roster after he spent the second half of his 2017 season on the DL. He strained a tendon in his right ankle, ending his Texas League season – he was 1-1 with a 57 strikeouts in 56.1 innings.
He’ll be in Jupiter, Fl. next month with the Marlins, using shared space with the Cardinals Spring Training squad.