Excerpt: 'Moneyball'

Jongewaard had seen kids say they were going to college only to change their minds the minute the money hit the table. But in the weeks following the draft he had laid a hundred grand in front of Billy's parents and it had done nothing to improve the tone of the discussion. He began to worry that Billy was serious. To the chagrin of Billy's mother, who was intent on her son going to Stanford, Jongewaard planted himself in the Beane household. That didn't work either. "I wasn't getting the vibes I would like," Jongewaard now says. "And so I took Billy to see the big club."

It was 1980. The Beane family was military middle class. Billy had hardly been outside of San Diego, much less to New York City. To him the New York Mets were not so much a baseball team as a remote idea. But that summer, when the Mets came to San Diego to play the Padres, Jongewaard escorted Billy into the visitors' clubhouse. There Billy found waiting for him a Mets uniform with his name on the back, and a receiving party of players: Lee Mazzilli, Mookie Wilson, Wally Backman. The players knew who he was; they came up to him and joked about how they needed him to hurry up and get his ass to the big leagues. Even the Mets' manager, Joe Torre, took an interest. "I think that's what turned Billy," says Jongewaard. "He met the big league team and he thought: I can play with these guys." "It was such a sacred place," says Billy, "and it was closed off to so many people. And I was inside. It became real."

The decision was Billy's to make. A year or so earlier, Billy's father had sat him down at a table and challenged him to ¬arm-¬wrestle. The gesture struck Billy as strange, unlike his father. His father was intense but never physically aggressive. Father and son wrestled: Billy won. Afterward, his father told Billy that if he was man enough to beat his father in ¬arm-¬wrestling, he was man enough to make his own decisions in life. The offer from the Mets was Billy's first big life decision. Billy told Roger Jongewaard he'd sign.

What happened next was odd. Years later Billy couldn't be sure if he dreamed it, or it actually happened. After he told the Mets he planned to sign their contract, but before he'd actually done it, he changed his mind. When he told his father that he was having second thoughts, that he wasn't sure he wanted to play pro ball, his father said, "You made your decision, you're signing."

In any case, Billy took the $125,000 offered by the Mets. He appeased his mother (and his conscience) by telling her (and himself) he would attend classes at Stanford during the ¬off-¬season. Stanford disagreed. When the admissions office learned that Billy wouldn't be playing sports for Stanford, they told him that he was no longer welcome in Stanford's classrooms. "Dear Mrs. Beane," read the letter from the Stanford dean of admissions, Fred A. Hargadon, "we are withdrawing Billy's admission ... I do wish him every success, both with his professional career in baseball and with his alternate plans for continuing his education."

Just like that, a life changed. One day Billy Beane could have been anything; the next he was just another minor league baseball player, and not even a rich one. On the advice of a family friend, Billy's parents invested on their son's behalf his entire $125,000 bonus in a real estate partnership that promptly went bust. It was many years before Billy's mother would speak to Roger Jongewaard.

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