Guys who throw a baseball 100 mph are hard to find. But the Minnesota Twins just discovered one named Brandon Poulson, who has been pitching for the Healdsburg Prune Packers in a collegiate summer league. Ever heard of them? Neither have we. Poulson went undrafted this summer, and yesterday the Twins scooped him up for $250,000, a pretty hefty contract for someone passed over by 29 other MLB teams.
There is hope for Poulson yet. Here are five other players from across the four major professional sports leagues who went undrafted but still became highly-regarded names in their respective sports.
Daniel Nava — Boston Red Sox
This season, Nava is making 557,000 times the amount he made when he was first signed to a professional contract. The Chico Outlaws of the independent Golden Baseball League bought him for a whopping $1. He is now an everyday player for the Sox, and he sports a World Series ring. Not bad for the former equipment manager at Santa Clara University.
Ben Wallace — former Detroit Piston
Ben Wallace is one of only two players to win the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award four times. He was also a four-time All-Star and an NBA champion in 2004. But he came from a small Division II college and did not get much recognition, despite earning All-American honors. Wallace played overseas before he was finally signed by the Washington Bullets, launching the 16-year career of one of the NBA’s most fearsome defensive big men.
Udonis Haslem — Miami Heat
After leading the Florida Gators to their first-ever National Championship appearance in 2000, Haslem elected to remain in school. He stayed four years in Florida, and by the end was more than 300 pounds and NBA scouts said he was too undersized to be a true big man in the league. Tell that to Haslem’s three championship rings (which is still more than LeBron.) Sure, two of those times he was surrounded by the Big Three, but in 2006 he averaged just under 30 minutes per game in the playoffs, scoring 8.6 points and grabbing 7.4 rebounds per contest.
Tony Romo — Dallas Cowboys
Despite spending his entire career (so far) in Dallas, the Cowboys did not draft their current franchise leader in touchdown passes. Romo graduated from Eastern Illinois in 2002 after a four-year career that featured 92 total touchdowns. A full year later, he was signed by the Cowboys as a free agent and spent most of the next two seasons as the holder for placekickers before becoming the starter midway through the 2006 season.
Martin St. Louis — New York Rangers
A long and winding journey to the NHL has culminated in a prolific career for St. Louis. Like Haslem, playing out his final year of college eligibility proved detrimental. Though he graduated from Vermont as the school’s all-time leading scorer, NHL teams lost interest in him and he was forced to sign a contract with the IHL. Seventeen years later, he has played for three different NHL teams, won a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, and taken home the NHL’s MVP award (also in 2004).
Photos: Courtesy Brandon Poulson, Jim Rogash/Getty Images, Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images, Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images, Tom Pennington/Getty Images, Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Meet Brandon Poulson (and Five Other Players Who Never Got Drafted)