Eighteen years later, Brent McDonald still feels blessed to have coached both of them -- Scott Kazmir and Clint Everts.
“Listen, God touched their arms,” he said. “I was really fortunate to be part of their lives for a little while.”
In the spring of 2002, Kazmir and Everts were two of the best high school pitchers in the country, and McDonald had them at the front of his rotation at Cy Falls High School in the Houston suburbs.
In 16 years as a Texas high school baseball coach, he never experienced anything else like it. Their every start was an event in the weeks leading up to the 2002 Draft with an array of radar guns and television crews tracking every throw.
During one game, one of Kazmir’s representatives would routinely telephone scouting directors or general managers between innings.
“Scott just touched 97 mph!” he would breathlessly announce.
McDonald felt that excitement, too, in a different sort of way. Given a pair of kids on the threshold of a dream, he felt a responsibility to guard their health as much as possible.
“It was very stressful,” he said. “We had to do everything we could to take care of them and make sure they left school healthy. Their families never put it on me. The kids never said anything. But you feel that pressure. Ask my wife. It was incredible.”
On draft day, Everts was the fifth overall pick by the Expos. Kazmir, dealing with concerns about his asking price that were chronicled in Moneyball, went 15th to the Mets.
“They were great young men, both of them,” McDonald said. “They were terrific teammates. Their families were fantastic.”
Kazmir, 36, was traded to the Rays in 2004 and made his Major League debut a few weeks later. In all or parts of 12 seasons, he has 108 victories, three All-Star appearances and $99 million in career earnings.
Everts, 35, has been the head baseball coach at St. John’s High School in Houston for six years after spending 11 seasons in the Minors, reaching Triple-A. He underwent Tommy John surgery in his third season and never felt his stuff completely return to its previous level.
“It would come back in spurts,” he said. “You’d think, `OK, there it is.’ Then it wouldn’t last.”
He spent time with four organizations and obtained a degree from Baylor in the offseason. His $2.5-million signing bonus gave him a jump start on a nice nest egg.
“I’m comfortable with everything,” he said. “I got to experience so much because of the game and developed a whole lot of relationships. I feel I gave it a pretty good run.”
McDonald runs down the numbers at Cy Falls. In two seasons, his teams were 45-7 with Kazmir and Everts.
Kazmir averaged 19 strikeouts per seven innings and threw six no-hitters. Everts averaged 18 strikeouts per seven innings.
“We had to be very mindful about pitch counts,” McDonald said. “These were not pitch-to-contact guys. You’ve got 21 outs in a high school game, and these guys are getting 17 or 18 of them by strikeout. That tells you plenty about their dominance, but the pitch counts can get out of hand.”
McDonald, now a high school principal outside Houston, laughs when he thinks about Draft day in 2002. Rather than prepare for a media event, he was in a grad school class when his cell phone began “blowing up.”
“I’d say I didn’t understand the scope of the attention we’d be getting,” he said, laughing. “I’m getting calls asking where I’m at and telling me ESPN is going live from school and all the local stations have their trucks parked out front.”
He blew off the rest of the class and returned to school and started doing interviews. Two years later as Kazmir prepared to make his Major League debut, McDonald told a reporter, “Well, I can always say I coached a big leaguer. I’ve only said that about 20 times today already.”