While many high school and college players anxiously sat around last week awaiting word from the Major League Baseball Amateur draft, Armwood's Zack Powers decided to relax. Powers, this season's St. Petersburg Times Player of the Year, grabbed a fishing pole and joined a buddy out in the Gulf of Mexico.
"I left about 4 in the morning," Powers said. "I didn't know when and if I would be drafted, so we went fishing. I didn't even have cell (phone) reception most of the time on the water."
So things were quiet until Powers saw his fishing pole sag and felt a huge hit on the line. He struggled, fought and soon realized there was something pretty big that didn't especially want to be caught.
"It was about a 4- or 5-foot black tip shark," he said. "Then, I got the call."
Powers' boat had drifted into a pocket of cell phone reception. And despite having a prized catch on one end of the line, he realized his other line had a pretty important call.
"It was the (Pittsburgh) Pirates telling me they drafted me," he said. "I'm trying to talk on the phone and fight this shark all at the same time."
Powers was one of four area players picked in the MLB draft last week, going in the 28th round. Three Brandon players also were drafted — Roderick Shoulders (20th round to the Boston Red Sox), James Ramsay (38th round to the New York Yankees) and Spencer Haynes (43rd round to the Oakland A's).
"I was sitting out back with my dad and my sister's husband when my sister came running out and said they called my name," Shoulders said. "We all started going crazy."
Shoulders faced an immediate dilemma — the switch-hitting slugger grew up a fan of the rival Yankees.
"My dad got me into watching the Yankees, and we used to go to spring training all the time and watch them at Legends Field," Shoulders said. "But I went out that night and bought a brand new Red Sox hat."
None of the four players have signed with the teams yet, and all are inked to play next year in college. Powers is set to attend Florida and Ramsay is headed to USF, while Shoulders and Haynes are signed with the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. Junior college players who don't sign can be selected in next year's draft, but those going to four-year schools who don't sign have to wait three seasons before being drafted again.
"It is an exciting time for these guys," Brandon coach Matt Stallbaumer said prior to the draft. "But nowadays signability comes into play with where they are taken and if they'll go to college or not."
Powers likely has the most leverage while negotiating a professional contract after signing to play next year with powerhouse Florida, which recently qualified for the upcoming College World Series. Despite this, he said the idea of playing for the Gators and going to school in Gainesville was a better fit right now.
"I've already told (the Pirates) I was going to UF," Powers said. "They're going to drop off a contract next week, but I think going to school is the best thing for me to do."
Shoulders, on the other hand, seemed less sure of his decision. He'll continue to play summer ball and then take a trip to Boston in July with fellow draftees for a three-day workout in Fenway Park.
"My main goal since I was a kid was to play pro ball, and the quicker I can get into (the Red Sox) program the better," he said. "I really want to play pro ball, but (the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota) is a great program with great tradition, so going there would benefit me as well."
While all four players are a long way from the big leagues, they've cleared the first hurdle. And as for that shark Powers' hooked?
"I had the shark right next to the boat, and I could see him. But I had to let it go," Powers said with a chuckle. "I couldn't be rude to the dude who just called and told me I got drafted."
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