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Price was right after act of faith at Vanderbilt

Five-time All-Star went No. 1 overall after storied college career
February 12, 2024

It’s January 2005, and David Price is on the cusp of his freshman season at Vanderbilt. But he’s also a few bad games away from quitting baseball and working at a local McDonald’s. “It was a January or February day. There was a big part of him that was going

It’s January 2005, and David Price is on the cusp of his freshman season at Vanderbilt. But he’s also a few bad games away from quitting baseball and working at a local McDonald’s.

“It was a January or February day. There was a big part of him that was going to walk away. He was frustrated with a lot of different things. He was frustrated with not being able to pitch as well and academically not finding success. I think it all bottled up. I had a long conversation with him, but it was the last time I spoke to him about confidence,” explained Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin.

Corbin convinced the young left-hander to give himself a chance, and two-and-a-half years later, both the moment of insecurity and the ensuing act of faith paid off. On June 7, 2007, Price topped the Draft board as the first overall pick.

David Price confers with Vanderbilt coach/mentor Tim Corbin.Vanderbilt Athletics

Raised in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, just 32 miles southeast of Nashville, Price was a two-sport star at Blackman High School. He garnered awards for his performance on the basketball court, but he truly made his mark on the mound. He coasted through his senior season with a 0.43 ERA and 151 strikeouts, capturing the attention of Major League scouts. It was something a challenge for Corbin to lure him away from professional baseball:

“It wasn’t easy at first because we were told he wasn’t going to college, and he probably wasn’t going to look at Vanderbilt as an option," Corbin said. "When it got time to make a decision, I think it was more about he wanted to be part of a program where he could build it. Rather than rent a tradition, he wanted to be part of building one. That’s what he did.”

Although Price had been selected in the 19th round of the 2004 Draft by the Dodgers, he chose to honor his commitment to nearby Vanderbilt, where Corbin had big plans for the perennial cellar-dwelling Commodores.

Price factored heavily into those plans. After nearly hanging up his glove, the southpaw joined the Commodores’ bullpen and made his first start on March 8, 2005. Facing neighboring Lipscomb, he struck out nine of the 14 batters he faced. He went on to be named a Freshman All-American by both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball.

He picked up where he left off during his sophomore campaign, setting a school record with 155 strikeouts. His performance garnered national attention as he was recognized as one of five finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, a distinction given to the top player in college baseball.

That record wasn’t safe for long -- Price was even better his junior season, racking up 194 strikeouts en route to an 11-1 season. His only loss of the season came in a relief appearance on two days’ rest in a regional championship game against Michigan. He snuffed a rally before eventually falling in extra innings.

Price tips his cap after facing LSU on May 19, 2007.Vanderbilt Athletics

Even though he didn't reach the sport’s biggest stage, Price was firmly on the radar of tastemakers across the nation. He swept the college baseball awards, becoming the first player to do so.

Just three days after a heartbreaking end to the season, Major League Baseball conducted its first live Draft at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. Previously done entirely over conference calls, then-Commissioner Bud Selig announced the picks conveyed to him by MLB dignitaries live on ESPN2. The Devil Rays were first on the clock and the fans in attendance chanted “We want Price!” while awaiting the pick.

“Right or wrong, my opinion going into the ’07 spring was that David was our guy and it was his job to stay at the top of the list," longtime Rays scouting director RJ Harrison said. "Once the season started, he never had two starts in a row that we didn’t have someone from our club in attendance. I saw him three times, the last one at the SEC tourney. There was no question in our minds that David was the right guy.”

So Price became just the fourth left-handed pitcher to be selected first overall and the first since Brien Taylor went to the Yankees in 1991. While there is typically more risk and uncertainty when drafting a pitcher, the Devil Rays felt like Price was the total package.

“Beyond the physical ability that was very clear, the intangibles were outstanding. Humble, competitive, great teammate, hard worker, determined to be the best he could be. You name it, David checked the box,” said Harrison.

Price started his professional career with the Vero Beach Devil Rays in the Class A Advanced Florida State League and was promoted to Double-A Montgomery after six games. Price went 11-0 to start his Minor League career, suffering his first loss in his Triple-A debut with Durham on Aug. 13. A month and a day later, he made his Major League debut against the Yankees.

After being drafted No. 1 overall, Price meets the media on Aug. 18, 2007.Tampa Bay Rays

To date, the pitcher who almost quit the sport has been named to five All-Star teams, has won an AL Cy Young Award and has compiled 2,076 big league strikeouts. And even as his impact has been felt across the Rays, Tigers, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Dodgers, he continues to pay dividends for Vanderbilt.

“We’ve had a lot of helping hands in building this program, he certainly carried a big shovel," Corbin said.

Allison Mast is a contributor for