Ty Griffin came to Grand Forks in 1996, attempting to resurrect his promising baseball career.

An Olympic gold medalist and first-round draft pick, Griffin spent time in the minor league systems of the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals before landing in North Dakota.

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His two-year stint with the Grand Forks Varmints was successful, but it marked the end of his playing career. He never made the major leagues, despite once being a top-10 overall pick.

Luckily for Griffin, he knew that his high draft position didn't guarantee him anything.

"A lot of guys see a college career as buying time to get to the professional level," Griffin said. "I didn't. I wanted to better myself and make sure I had something I'd love doing if baseball didn't happen."

Griffin, who spent three years at Georgia Tech before turning pro, went back to school after his stint with the Varmints and graduated with a finance degree.

He used that degree and his baseball experience to land a job as an agent with StarTrust Management, an agency located in his hometown of Tampa, Fla.

Griffin has been with StarTrust for the last four years. The company has signed 35 athletes, mostly baseball players. Griffin said they are looking to expand, however.

"I really like it," Griffin said of his new career. "It's great giving back to the kids and helping in a sport that I still love."

It's not the career field that many envisioned Griffin having. He was an elite infielder and outfielder throughout his career.

He made a trip to the Little League World Series as a child. He won Olympic gold in 1988. And in that same year, he was drafted No. 9 overall by the Chicago Cubs (between Jim Abbott and Robin Ventura).

He played for eight different minor league teams before calling it quits.

Gaining experience

Griffin originally was drafted in the 12th round out of high school, but he elected not to sign and instead to play college baseball at Georgia Tech. That meant he went back into the draft three years later.

"I really felt that I wasn't ready coming out of high school," Griffin said. "I wanted something to fall back on incase baseball didn't work out. That was really my thought process at that time."

Griffin said he relates his experience to young standout baseball players, who don't know whether to sign out of high school or go to college. He recommends college in order to build a backup plan.

"That's what I try to tell people nowadays," Griffin said. "You definitely want to pursue something that you have greater odds at making it. Only a small percentage of people make it (to the major leagues).

"It is a great opportunity to play college baseball, but it's also a great opportunity to pursue something to have a career when you're done playing."

Griffin said he was disappointed to find out that Grand Forks doesn't have a pro baseball team now.

"They don't have a team? It's definitely a town that could and should have baseball," said Griffin, who is married and has two children. "It's a small city that really cared about baseball. The people there were excellent. It was one of the best places I played at."

Reach Schlossman at (701) 780-1129; (800) 477-6572, ext. 129; or send e-mail to bschlossman@gfherald.com.