TAMPA — There is a Chinese proverb that states, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." For some area baseball players, next week will be that first step.
The Major League Baseball draft will be held June 7-9, marking the 45th year of the first-year player draft in the sport.
"It's a great time for these kids and truly is a huge honor for those that get picked," Brandon coach Matt Stallbaumer said. "There are a lot of good players who don't get a chance to get drafted so if you do get called, it's pretty special."
The MLB draft receives much less fanfare than the NBA or NFL versions for a few reasons. Unlike the other two sports, baseball players generally spend a considerable time in the minor leagues prior to reaching the spotlight. The baseball draft also happens in-season. The NFL and NBA drafts both occur during the offseason.
As recent as 10 years ago, some players didn't find out they had been drafted until days after the selection. Armwood coach Mike Wrenn was chosen in the 42nd round by the Minnesota Twins and didn't learn about it until the following day.
"You couldn't follow it like you can now on TV and the Internet," said Wrenn, who has at least one player in draft contention this year. "When the Twins called, they said I'd been picked the day before. I was like 'Thanks.' "
But in today's media climate, those days are history. The draft first aired on television in 2007 on ESPN and now can be found on the MLB Network. The first round will be aired in prime time on June 7, with the following two days live at noon. Selections can also be followed on the MLB DraftTracker on mlb.com.
"It's a much bigger deal today than even when I was picked," Wrenn said.
The draft lasts 50 rounds and all United States high school players who have exhausted their eligibility may be selected. Any junior college player is eligible, as are those who have completed their third season at a four-year university.
"There are so many things these scouts look for and really two organizations can have two totally different opinions of a player," Stallbaumer said. "Truthfully, it's a crapshoot."
The sheer number of players and the lengthy road in the minors make reaching the majors unlikely. According to MLB statistics, 12.5 percent of the players drafted from 1965 to the present have reached the major leagues.
"It's gotten trickier over the past few years because the best players aren't always taken in the order they should be," Stallbaumer said. "There are signability issues. If a kid has signed to go to college or wants too much money, teams will stay away."
Armwood's Zack Powers, who has signed to play with Florida next season, is likely to be drafted next week. With his college future already secure, he is one of those players with leverage. By inking with the Gators, whoever drafts Powers does so knowing he may be in Gainesville this August rather than on a minor league field.
"Having Florida in your back pocket makes a big difference," Wrenn said.
And the negotiating process can be tricky. Should a team take a chance on a player who they feel is leaning toward going to school? How much money does that player want for a signing bonus? Is it wise for a player to turn down signing an MLB contract to go to college and risk injury? All these factors must be weighed, and there are some young men who will be making very grown-up decisions next week.
"For me I just wanted to play ball, so I signed the next day and was on a plane," Wrenn said. "I've always told our guys if they keep working hard they will get the money they deserve."
Athletes likely to get the call next week
Zack Powers, Armwood: Signed as an infielder with Florida, but should go in the top 10 rounds next week. Powers hit .411 with three homers and went 8-1 with a 1.51 ERA while leading the Hawks to the 5A state title game.
Roderick Shoulders, Brandon: After tearing his labrum as a junior, Shoulders rebounded as a senior by hitting .377 with four homers and 27 RBIs. The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder, who has signed with the State College of Florida at Manatee/Sarasota, possesses power to all fields and is being projected as high as the fourth round.
James Ramsay, Brandon: Ramsay, named Times Player of the Year as a sophomore, missed nearly all of his junior year with a torn ACL. But Ramsay, who has signed with the University of South Florida, came back to hit .419 with three homers this season. A speedy outfielder with a strong arm, he will likely go on the second day of the draft.
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