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Athletics' top prospect gets call to priesthood

As a top prospect for the Oakland Athletics, outfielder Grant Desme might have gotten the call every minor-leaguer wants this spring.

Instead, he believed he had a higher calling.

Desme announced Friday that he is leaving baseball to enter the priesthood, walking away after a breakout season in which he became MVP of the Arizona Fall League.

"I was doing well at ball. But I really had to get down to the bottom of things," said Desme, 23. "I wasn't at peace with where I was at."

A lifelong Catholic, Desme thought about becoming a priest for about a year and a half. He kept his path quiet within the sports world, and he startled the A's when he told them he planned to enter a seminary this summer.

General manager Billy Beane "was understanding and supportive," Desme said, but the decision "sort of knocked him off his horse." After the talk, Desme felt "a great amount of peace."

"I love the game, but I aspire to higher things," he said. "I know I have no regrets."

In a statement, Beane said: "We respect Grant's decision and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors."

Athletes and the priesthood have overlapped, albeit rarely. Al Travers, who gave up 24 runs during a one-game career for a makeshift Detroit Tigers team in 1912, became a Catholic priest. More recently, Chase Hilgenbrinck of the New England Revolution left Major League Soccer in 2008 to enter a seminary.

Desme spoke on a conference call for about 10 minutes in a quiet, even tone, hardly sounding like many gung-ho, on-the-rise ballplayers. As for his success in the minors, "all of it is very undeserving," he said. The A's picked him in the second round of the 2007 amateur draft and he was starting to blossom. He was the only player in the entire minors with 30 homers and 30 stolen bases last season.

Desme batted .288 with 31 homers, 89 RBIs and 40 steals in 131 games at Class A Kane County and high Class A Stockton last year. He hit .315 with a league-leading 11 home runs and 27 RBIs in 27 games this past fall in Arizona, a league filled with young talent.

There was speculation that the A's might invite Desme to spring training next month. Instead, he intends to enter a seminary in Silverado, Calif., in August.

Desme's first two years in the minors were marred by shoulder and wrist problems. He said his days off the field gave him time to think about what was most important to him, to read and study the Bible and to talk to teammates about his faith. In retrospect, he said, those injuries were "the biggest blessings God ever gave me."

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