June 04, 2014 - BY LAURA DUCHARME
Sam Palace was a baseball standout at Clarkston High School, and now catches for the Washington Nationals in the Major League. Photo provided (click for larger version)
Special to the Clarkston News
Sam Palace has achieved his dream of playing in the major leagues, and he thanks the Clarkston community for his success.
"Because of the community he has great character," said Joe Palace, Sam Palace's dad. "He still talks highly of his coaches, teachers and the Clarkston community."
He was a standout in baseball when he played baseball in Clarkston.
"Sam was an outstanding player and an even better person," said Phil Price, the baseball coach at Clarkston High School. "He was a really good catcher, but sophomore year he had to play shortstop on varsity. He knew what was best for the team."
Sam doesn't have the typical story on making it to the major leagues, though. He played baseball in college at Florida Tech but wasn't drafted into the major leagues. He became an undrafted free agent and began to play for an independent professional baseball league and played Single-A and AAA games, hoping some good would come from that.
In 2009 he started doing spring training with the Washington Nationals. He was sent down to the minor leagues. He played in the minor leagues for four years.
"He just wouldn't quit," said Joe. "He worked harder than everybody else."
His hard work paid off this year when he was offered a position to be a bullpen catcher.
When the Nationals coaches offered him the position, it seemed like they were letting him go, telling him that there was no room for him in the minor leagues.
They even took it far enough to say the Nationals were going to release him. The joke quickly ended, though, and they offered him a job.
Even though this isn't how they imagined he would be in the major leagues, it is still a huge accomplishment to be proud of.
"It was a little bit of a disappointment for both of us," said Joe on his son not being an official player, but instead a uniformed employee. "We are still very proud of him."
Joe and Crystal (Sam's mom) did get to see their son play on Opening Day for the Washington Nationals.
"It's an awesome story of his career," said Joe. "But it's more of the person he is and the character he has."
Seeing Sam's hard work pay off over the years is inspirational to many people.
"I think he's in a great situation and living in the moment," said Price about Sam playing for the Washington Nationals. "I think he had the athletic ability to make it to the major leagues. He has always loved athletics and loved competing."
Some even hope Sam's story will encourage others to never give up on their dreams.
"I hope children learn to dream big," said Dr. Rod Rock, superintendent of Clarkston schools. "To believe that failure is an opportunity, to refuse to accept 'no' or 'never,' to posses an enduring faith and confidence in themselves, to not allow others to definitively define them, and to work extremely hard. Sam teaches us that when we keep learning, practicing and growing, dreams do come true."