Billy Wagner broke his right arm as a young boy and began throwing left-handed. He strengthened his left arm by throwing a baseball as far as he could in the field behind his house in rural Virginia. When asked if he had a bag full of balls, Wagner said, "No, I only had one ball. I'd throw it as far as I could, then go pick it up, and throw it back in the other direction." Wagner pitched for 15 seasons in the major leagues and saved 422 games.
Vladimir Guerrero went to a tryout camp in the Dominican Republic on the back of a motorcycle, wearing non-matching spikes, one of which was so much bigger than the other that he had to stuff a sock inside it just to make it fit. He was signed that day, paid his motorcycle friend $200, and someday will be enshrined in Cooperstown. Jim Morris was a high school baseball coach who was so impressive throwing batting practice, his players persuaded him to resume his career; he pitched briefly for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at age 35 and was the subject of the movie, "The Rookie." The Diamondbacks signed pitcher Vicente Padilla out of the hills of Nicaragua in the late 1990s. He showed up at the signing on a burro. He agreed to the signing bonus but asked for $2,000 more to properly care for his burro, which he got. "I love my burro," he said.
From crushed trombones to ex-cons to one-armed outfielders to pitchers on a burro, there long have been strange routes to pro ball. "Million Dollar Arm," and one-in-a-million stories.