|KISSIMMEE -- Earl Cash had approximately three hours notice that he was starting his professional baseball career.
"I was sitting at home one night about ten days after I got out of school," Cash recalled. "About 10:30 or 11 the phone rang. It was Astros scout Bob Hartsfield. He wanted to know if I was ready to sign."
It took Cash about a quarter of a second to decide. "I told him I'd catch the next plane out," Cash said.
He threw a few things in his suitcase, said goodbye to Mom and Dad in Newman, GA, and headed for the nearby Atlanta airport fo a 1 AM departure.
Cash reported for practice the next afternoon to the Astros' class A Auburn squad of the New York-Penn League.
He spent the 1984 season as a relief pitcher, a departure from his starting role at Troy State University, but Cash was effective with a 1.65 ERA, a 2 - 1 record, and 15 saves in 25 appearances.
Cash stayed in the bullpen the first two-thirds of the 1985 season, but two weeks ago manager Dave Cripe decided to make Cash a starter.
He was ripped for three runs in the first inning of his first start against the Clearwater Phillies, but then settled down and threw five scoreless innings. Cash took the loss in that contest, but inhis next outing, he won an important decision over the Winter Haven Red Sox, 8 - 4 at Osceola Stadium.
"When you're a starter, you know you're gonna pitch. You have time to mentally prepare for a game," Cash said.
| "And you pitch more innings." Not that Cash was dissatisfied as a reliever. "In the bullpen, you had to be pretty much prepared every night," he said. "That was fine. It's just harder to get up some days than others."
Cash doesn't worry about his role as long as he is permitted to take the mound.
"I just like to pitch," he said. "When I was 5 or 6, sitting in front of the TV set, I always pictured that was me out there on the mound."
As a starter, Cash know he'll pitch only once or twice a week. That leaves him with more free time, which he uses to polish up his songwriting talents.
I wrote [a tune] last year in New York," he said. "The guys up there got a big kick out of it. I'm writing another one now for the Florida State League. My man over there (teammate Tim Cole) is gonna get his guitar and help me with it."
Cash has plenty of spare time during the season, something he isn't thrilled about.
I'm not the kind of person who likes to sit around. I need to be doing something. "I get up early every morning. A lot of guys like to stay up late and sleep until afternoon, but I can't do that. I usually come to the park pretty early, or I'll just drive my truck around."
Cash often turns his imagination loose and expands on topics such as the gullibility of children.
"Can you believe the things parents tell kids, like Santa Claus can visit every house in the world on Christmas Eve? Who're they kidding? Then if that isn't bad enough, there's the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy."
|One of Cash's favorite stories: "When I went to Troy State (located in Alabama) my freshman year I had to bring my own money with me from Georgia.
"All the money in Alabama had a picture of Bear Bryant on it."
Cash, age 22, said he doesn't waste his time worrying, "because I learned that 99 percent of the things in life yoou can't control, and the other 1 percent nobody gives a darn about."
"One thing I do is thank the Lord for everything I have, the strength and ability to do the things I can."
He doesn't worry on the mound either.
I know exactly what I'm going to do when I'm out there," he said. "Say there's a guy on first. When I get in my stretch, I know if I'm throwing to first or going to the plate."
"There can't be any 50-50 decisions. You have to know what you're doing to have confidence."
Cash, 6-3, 210, is one of the few players in the Astros organization who wasn't drafted. He signed as a free agent.
After completing his senior college season, Cash's Troy State coach, pro scout Chase Riddle, circulated word about his pitcher.
Hartsfield, who had seen Cash pitch in junior college, decided he was worth a contract.
I owe a lot to him for giving me a chance," Cashsiad. "I owe a lot to my parents. (Earl and Glenda) too, they always supported me. My dad has been down here three times already this year."
|1985 Osceola Team Issue # 6|