'They were made for baseball'

10-19-03, 11 a.m. **

Bengals wide receiver Kelley Washington offers his weekly diary of a NFL rookie for Week Six. Washington, a 10th-round draft pick of the Marlins in 1997, hit .213 while playing many of his 295 minor-league games with several players now in the World Series against the Yankees.**

I don't miss baseball, but I miss the contact with the guys. It's funny, but I think about guys like Josh Beckett and Miguel Cabrera and now there they are in the World Series. Guys like Luis Castillo, Alex Gonzalez, Derrek Lee.

I turned double plays with those guys and watched them in batting practice. We played a lot of instructional ball together, and we started out with the lowest payroll and now they're one of the best teams in baseball. And they're just guys who were in the minor leagues, but they got a chance to shine and an opportunity to play in the big leagues and they're all gelling together. I think they can beat the Yankees. I'm sticking with my team.

Cabrera was just 16 years old when he first got there from Venezuela. He was shy and didn't speak much English. He liked me because I was always talking in batting practice and getting

everybody rowdy. We hung out together, and I tried to help him with the language a little bit. He's a big kid, 6-3 about 215 pounds. He was one of those guys that you just look at him and you knew he was going to make it. I think I was the first guy Josh Beckett met when he arrived. He was their first pick in the draft and a guy who was confident. We took him out on the town and showed him Miami.

We still keep in touch and I guess the last time we talked was during midseason. He talked about me getting drafted and he knew I still had a place in Fort Lauderdale, so he told me to come in and hang out when I was back in the area.

He came in at 19 years old throwing 95 miles per hour and he could get it up to 98, and you knew he was going to be a star. I faced him a couple of times and he's got that 12-to-6 hook. That's a curve ball that starts at the top at 12 o'clock and finishes at the bottom at 6. Those are tough to hit, but it worked out to be a great story for everybody.

Those guys were made to play baseball. I was made to play football. They slept, ate, drank baseball. I could always do other things. Basketball, football, baseball, I did it all. Baseball was a way to get me to mature and help support my family financially. I took a lot of things out of baseball emotionally, physically and mentally that helped me get here.

Guys talk about the two-hour practices we have here, but I really think the hardships of playing minor-league baseball prepared me to get to this point. It's a more grueling sport. We'd be out there in individual drills, team drills, batting practice, and then we'd play a game and we could be out there for about 12 hours. That has sometimes gotten me through things now.

The Yankees are good, but I'm going with the Marlins. They're on a roll. They're hot and a lot of times it's tough to put out that flame. They've got guys everywhere who make plays for them. They bring in a guy like catcher Ivan Rodriguez and it just helps them. They're going to be hard to beat because they've played so well lately.

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