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Langston glad he didn't sign with Cubs in '78

Left-hander started career with Mariners after three years of college
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- In 1978, Mark Langston was pitching at Buchser High School in Santa Clara, Calif. He wasn't highly touted, but the Cubs liked the left-hander enough to select him in the 15th round of that year's Draft.

Bob Kennedy was the Cubs' general manager in 1978, and the team offered Langston $10,000 to sign. Did Langston come close to signing with the Cubs?

CHICAGO -- In 1978, Mark Langston was pitching at Buchser High School in Santa Clara, Calif. He wasn't highly touted, but the Cubs liked the left-hander enough to select him in the 15th round of that year's Draft.

Bob Kennedy was the Cubs' general manager in 1978, and the team offered Langston $10,000 to sign. Did Langston come close to signing with the Cubs?

"Yes and no," Langston said. "We had a number that we sat and talked about. I had no agent, so my parents were basically doing the negotiating, and they came up with what they thought was realistic. It wasn't that far off from [the Cubs'] number, but it was something that they were firm on, and I trusted them."

Looking back, Langston said he made the right decision.

"To me, the best thing happened, because I went off to go to college," Langston said. "I was 17 when I graduated from high school. It would have been interesting -- I didn't turn 18 until August, so I don't know how I would have handled that, as a kid that's really never been anywhere. It's completely different than what these kids were exposed to in the Draft now, where they play on all these different select teams and all that. We didn't have any of that, so it would have been really my first big time away from home, and I don't know how it would have panned out."

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Langston went to San Jose State, and in 1981, the lefty was selected in the second round by the Mariners, who offered $40,000. Langston signed with Seattle.

"I needed those three years of college," he said. "I really think I needed them -- mentally, physically, for all that to line up. And you hear a lot of the horror stories -- I saw a lot of the horror stories for kids that were in my situation, coming right out of high school, really never been out away from home. It's crazy difficult.

"It's really hard for some of these kids. Next thing you know, they're in some city, you have no idea, their support unit is not there, and you're playing with guys that are college-age. I don't know if the competition wouldn't have been there. It was more of the external stuff."

Even though he didn't sign with the Cubs, he said it was a thrill to be selected.

"It's something that's big for any high-school player," he said. "Certainly in our area, you didn't know if you were going to get drafted or not. Next thing you know, the Draft comes around, you see 15th round, here's the Cubs, they drafted you, and it was a really exciting moment.

"It's like almost the dream you had tried to envision in your head when you're a little kid, that's how close it was. I was sitting there and went, 'Oh my gosh, this is professional baseball.' So it was really cool."

The Cubs could have selected Langston in 1981. That year, the Mariners selected right-handed pitcher Mike Moore with the first overall pick, and the Cubs followed and chose outfielder Joe Carter. In the second round, the Mariners tabbed lefty Kevin Dukes and the Cubs chose outfielder Darrin Jackson. Langston was the 35th overall pick.

"I had not had a real good junior year in college," Langston said. "I went from 4-0, beating Stanford, beating good teams, to the whole rest of the second half of that season really collapsed. I got sick, I lost weight, everything just kind of accumulated to where I went from being one of the first 10 guys picked to [not even knowing] if I'm going to get drafted in that scenario. Seattle took me, so the way it was unraveling, I wasn't really focused on who's paying attention, who's not paying attention."

Langston went on to pitch 16 seasons in the big leagues with the Mariners, Expos, Angels, Padres and Indians. He went 17-10 his rookie season in 1984 and won 19 games in '87 with the Mariners and again in '91 with the Angels. He finished fifth and sixth in the Cy Young Award balloting in '87 and '91, respectively.

Did he ever wonder what it might have been like to be a Cub?

"I never really thought of myself as a Cub," Langston said. "I just remember how cool it was to be drafted out of high school. It was a big thrill. We had a guy the year before that was from our high school and was a second-round pick, so we thought he was the best player that's ever played. Then I get an opportunity to get drafted, too. It was right around graduation time, too, so it was kind of a neat little icing on the cake for graduation."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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