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August 6, 2009
This year's trade deadline might have been the craziest ever, not in terms of actual trades, but in terms of the talk about potential deals. Between all of the various outlets generating the rumors, those that simply aggregate them, and social networking sites like Twitter, trying to figure out everything that was happening became a 24/7 operation, while also requiring a sizeable filter to find the nuggets of truth. After the trade is done, everyone in the media chimes in once again to talk about who 'won' a trade, or what the prospects might become, but what about the prospects themselves. What happens when you are suddenly dealt?
Strangely enough, new Orioles third baseman Josh Bell found out about his trade in the same way everyone else does: via the internet. "A couple of teammates were saying there was a rumor going around, and I didn't really think anything of it," said Bell. "I showed up at the park on Friday, went online, and the Dodgers already had an announcement up early about adding [George] Sherrill to the bullpen, then buddies starting calling and congratulating me."
Normally, teams call players before trade information is public, but the Dodgers jumped the gun a bit with their release, and team Assistant GM of Player Development De Jon Watson called Bell once all of the medicals were cleared and the trade was official. "He basically called me and thanked me for everything I've done, told me I was traded and wished me good luck with the Orioles," Bell explained.
Twenty minutes later, Watson's equal with the Orioles, John Stockstill, called Bell and the 48-hour whirlwind began, with some assistance from Bell's agent, Josh Kusnick.
Kusnick is not the kind of agent who gathers a media crowd at the Winter Meetings. He founded Double Diamond Sports Management in 2002 with his father, Howard, and has developed and grown a small stable of clients from the ground up. He represents several prospects that are well on their way to the big leagues, including Josh Bell. As an agent with previous experience in having his clients involved with deadline deals, Kusnick immediately knew what his first responsibility was.
"Call his mom," Kusnick said laughingly. "Josh has a very close-knit family and the first thing I did was call Jackie," he explained. "I talked to her for an hour and just assured her, like I did with Josh, that this is a good thing, and something that could move up his timetable to the big leagues, and that's what this is all about."
For Bell, it was a mix of emotions. "This is the team that drafted me... the team I've been with for four years now. I've been around many of my teammates for all of this time, grown up with them, trained with them, made friends, some best friends and now it's like starting all over again," said Bell. "It's uncomfortable when our clients get traded because one of their first thoughts is that they'll never see any of these people again," added Kusnick.
The first thing Bell had to do was get back to Chattanooga and pack. As the Lookouts were on the road at the time of the deal's consummation, he caught a flight the next morning, and had less than a day to gather his belongings from the townhouse he shared with teammate Adam Godwin. "I had pretty much everything I own there," said Bell. "I filled up two big suitcases and made sure I had my computer, and figured that would be enough for the one month left in the season," he continued, noting that he left two bags behind that an aunt, who lives a couple hours drive away, will pick up later. "Then I called the landlady and told her this was my final month," he added.
Finding new roommates is a constant part of being in the minors, be it from trades or promotions, so even though he had nothing to do with the deal, Godwin, and 11th-round pick making a minor league salary, needs to find a new roommate for his final month in the Southern League. As far as moving expenses go, those are on the player as well.
One common problem, setting up new living arrangements, won't be an issue for Bell. Also traded from the Dodgers and assigned to Bowie was right-hander Steven Johnson, a Maryland native who Bell will live with during the season's final weeks. "It made life substantially easier having him get traded somewhere that he had a built-in roommate and place to live," Kusnick noted.
Meanwhile, Kusnick began doing the work to get Bell ready for his new organization. "He needed new stuff, obviously, because he can't wear blue with the Orioles" said Kusnick. "We have a relationship with many companies so we quickly ordered new equipment for him and had it over-nighted so he'd be ready with it day one," he added. "Players have enough going on with their entire careers suddenly getting turned around, these little things is what we are there for." As an aside, Josh likes his new colors, saying, "Black and orange... it gets to be Halloween every day."
Less than 48 hours after the deal, Bell arrived in New Britain for a road game, and was immediately put in the third spot in Bowie's batting order for the night. "The manager came up to me and introduced himself, showed me the signs, told me I was in the lineup, then we stretched and got in the game, so in that way, it was like any other day," said Bell.
Bell nonetheless noted that it was one of the strangest days of his career. "It was the weirdest feeling I've had in baseball, even weirder when I first signed," he explained. "You're just suddenly on a new team, and they know each other and there's chemistry there and they know the coaching staff and the way the team plays."
He went on to add, "There's a freedom in knowing a team and the core system there. It's really the unknown that I was worried about; it was a combination of excitement and nervousness, but in the end, this is a big opportunity for me."