Few in baseball could have projected a long major league career for Quinton McCracken when he headed to his first minor league spring training camp 20 years ago.

The 5-7 Duke graduate was the ultimate long shot. In a sport in which top college prospects are drafted and often sign after their junior seasons, he wasn’t taken until the 25th round as a senior.

“You create your own luck,” said McCracken, the Astros’ new director of player development. “If you’re not prepared when the opportunity comes, a lot of guys fall on their face. That’s one thing we preach to these players. You have to be prepared. Don’t be caught literally with your pants down. Work hard; play hard. And when the opportunity presents itself, you have to seize the moment.”

That’s exactly what McCracken began doing in his first spring training with the Colorado Rockies.

True overachiever

He was an “organizational player,” the equivalent of a seat-filler at the Oscars. When McCracken speaks about the importance of believing in the Astros’ player development plan, he can cite his own career as an example of what happens when players buy in.

“Being a guy who was drafted pretty much as an organizational player, a guy with modest skill sets but good baseball acumen, I had good instructors with the Rockies coming up,” he said. “I was able — with the help of a lot of people in that organization — to turn myself into a nice big league career. That’s what I draw on when I help chart a path for these kids here today.”