While Mike Piazza was getting ready for his mid-afternoon press conference to reveal the cap choice for his Hall of Fame plaque, Al Bacosa was at his photography studio in San Jose, getting ready to watch his son Kyle's middle school basketball debut.
Bacosa is the answer to a neat trivia question. He was drafted in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft by the Atlanta Braves, 1,389th overall, one spot ahead of Piazza, the lowest drafted player ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Bacosa was a senior pitcher at San Jose State with a low-to-mid-90s fastball. He still remembers how he found out he was picked.
“You don’t forget that call,” he said. “My sister gave the phone to my dad. They told him he had been drafted. He said, ‘That’s cool, but I haven’t thrown a ball in 20 years.’ And then he gave me the phone.”
Bacosa recalls getting a signing bonus of about $3,500 ("I think Ted Turner paid me out of his own pocket," he said), with a monthly salary of $575 and a deal on an apartment with wall-to-wall carpeting. His pro career was brief. He went 5-2 with a 4.35 ERA and six saves in the Pioneer League (rookie ball) with Idaho Falls. He could have gone to spring training the next year but declined, choosing instead to write a letter to then-Braves VP Hank Aaron explaining his decision to go back to school. Only one player from that Idaho Falls team made the majors, outfielder Tony Tarasco.
He got his degree (in two areas, administration of justice and economics) and entered the family business, photography. His father, Paul, opened the studio in 1966 and ran it until his death two years ago. Al and his wife Cathie run it now.
“I worked with my dad for 25 years and I wouldn’t trade that for anything,” he said.
Bacosa is still closely connected to baseball. He was the pitching coach for a nationally-ranked local program, Bellarmine College Prep, from 1991 to 2007, and after leaving the program for seven years he returned in 2015 to be the head freshman baseball coach. Among those to play for him are current major leaguers Kevin Frandsen, Mark Canha, Erik Goeddel and Tommy Medica.
Bacosa’s players are familiar with his playing career after looking him up on the Internet (his baseball card sells for 99 cents on eBay), but he’s put the memories behind him. One of his sons recently asked him if he wished he’d kept going. Bacosa told him he didn’t.
“That’s a hard thing to explain to a 15-year-old, how happy you are with your life,” he said. “Do I ever wonder about it? No. I wouldn’t have met my wife or had my kids. I’m so happy for Mike Piazza. I can only imagine what getting the call from the Hall of Fame was like. To trade [my current life] for a [Hall of Fame plaque], I couldn’t do that. I’m so happy for Mike, but I’m pretty good with where I’m at. When you become a dad, that’s the legacy you want to leave behind.”