01/29/2008 12:09 PM ET
Sampson: Getting a second chance
I certainly didn't take the traditional route to the big leagues. I spent a year in short-season Class A ball, but when that didn't work out, I took three years off before resuming my professional career as a pitcher. I not only took a long time off, but I changed positions as well.
I was a shortstop in my first stint of pro ball in 1999, playing for Auburn in the New York-Penn League. That lasted one season. I was going through some family problems during that time and the off-field issues affected my game to the point I wasn't able to focus on the game.
For me, if there is something worth doing, it's worth doing 100 percent and I wasn't able to do that back then.
After I got divorced, I was coaching baseball at Collin County Community College (Plano, Texas), not making much money and trying to finish my degree so I could teach and coach -- hopefully make a little more money. I still wanted to be involved in baseball in whatever way I could.
One day we were having a scrimmage and our pitcher's arm got sore. I went to the head coach and volunteered to finish the game and get our hitters some work. I ended up striking out five of the six guys I faced.
Our head coach told me it looked like I could still play if I wanted to play. At that point, I didn't have any family issues and he convinced me to give playing another shot.
Before that day, I had only pitched sparingly in high school and college. But, if you had a decent arm in high school, you pitched, so I hadn't given it much thought.
In 2003, I was given another shot by the Astros -- but this time as a pitcher. Initially I just wanted to show them what I've got. But I also apologized for skipping out on them the first time and taking a long time instead of one year. It was something that I felt like I needed to do.
Being a native of Texas, I grew up as an Astros fan. My dad used to take me to the Astrodome to watch Nolan Ryan pitch. He was my favorite player growing up. It's unbelievable to be able to play for the team I loved growing up. My dad has been able to watch every single start I've made at Minute Maid Park.
A lot of guys in the world don't get a first chance to play professional baseball. I've gotten two chances.
Chris Sampson went 7-8 for Houston over 24 appearances, including 19 starts, in 2007. He is originally from Channelview, Texas, and he played college ball at Texas Tech.