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How the Rays and the MLB draft wrote a fitting ending to Eckerd College’s season

The Tampa Bay Rays selected Eckerd outfielder Garrett Hiott, one of four Tritons picked in the 2019 MLB Draft.
Outfielder Garrett Hiott was one of four Eckerd College baseball players taken in the MLB draft this week. [Photo courtesy of Katie Willgohs]
Outfielder Garrett Hiott was one of four Eckerd College baseball players taken in the MLB draft this week. [Photo courtesy of Katie Willgohs]
Published Jun. 8, 2019

On one of the best days in the program’s history, Eckerd College’s baseball coach wandered outside a gray barn in rural New Hampshire, stopping along a dirt road on his family’s farm.

It was the only place Josh Beauregard could find cell service.

Wednesday was a historic day for Eckerd baseball. The Tritons set a school record with four selections in the Major League Baseball draft. That’s as many as the University of Tampa and any other program in Division II, as many as Florida State.

Related: RELATED: University of Tampa is a win away from another NCAA Division II baseball title

Which partially explains why Beauregard was outside in the middle of a Richmond, N.H. night, holding the phone up to his ear, hoping outfielder Garrett Hiott would pick up.

Earlier Wednesday, the Rays selected Hiott in the 25th round. Hiott just returned home from a celebratory dinner with his family, and he sat at the high-top kitchen table with his younger brother Ryan when Beauregard’s name flashed on the screen.

“It’s one of the phone calls I’ve always looked forward to having with him,” Hiott said. “He has helped me develop as an athlete and as a person, and you can tell he was just proud and excited for me.”

Back in New Hampshire, Beauregard shared Hiott’s emotional rush.

“To some extent they’re like your children," said Beauregard, who was in New Hampshire following a death in his family. "You can feel their joy. You can feel their excitement. I spend more time with them than I do my family during the season.”

Hiott, 21, grew up in Pompano Beach following the Marlins. His play with the Tritons put him on Tampa Bay’s radar. The Rays invited the center fielder to a pre-draft workout in front of scouts and management.

His father, Earl, broke up a FaceTime call with Eckerd pitcher Dillon McCullough and second baseman Nick Conti the instant he saw the name “Garrett Hiott" pop up on the MLB draft tracker web site.

“I put the phone down and just hugged my family,” Hiott said. “It was just a relief.”

Within hours, McCullough, Conti and Eckerd catcher Mitch Calandra felt a similar thrill. The Baltimore Orioles selected McCullough in the 27th round. The Atlanta Braves picked Calandra in the 30th. The New York Mets snagged Conti in the 39th.

Left-handed pitcher Dillon McCullough delivers a pitch for the Tritons. [Katie Willgohs]
Left-handed pitcher Dillon McCullough delivers a pitch for the Tritons. [Katie Willgohs]

McCullough, who turns 23 next week, said his nerves got the best of him for most of the draft’s final day. He sat in his Deltona, Fla., living room with his mom, two of his closest friends and his girlfriend. The left-hander known to his coaches and teammates as “Pickles,” followed the draft tracker on his phone. The Orioles called him right after he heard his name announced on TV.

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“Everyone was giving each other hugs and my phone started blowing up immediately,” McCullough said. “That’s something I’ve always dreamed of."

After 29 rounds, Calandra decided to step away from the TV and get ice cream with his girlfriend. Sitting inside a black Jeep Liberty, he held a lemon-lime Italian ice in one hand and his phone in the other when the Braves called.

“I watched the draft for four hours and take 15 minutes off, and of course that’s the 15 minutes I get picked,” Calandra said.

The New York Mets drafted Conti for the first time after he graduated from high school in Orlando. Conti, 22, chose to play baseball at Eckerd after high school, but he continued to hear from the Mets.

“I had some contact with them throughout my four years at Eckerd,” Conti said. “Throughout my senior year we had talked a lot, and they just decided to give me another shot.”

Nick Conti fields his position at second base for the Eckerd Tritons. [Katie Willgohs]
Nick Conti fields his position at second base for the Eckerd Tritons. [Katie Willgohs]

The record-setting draft follows Eckerd’s first winning season (31-19) since 2014, first conference title since 1981 and first trip to the NCAA regionals since 1987

“It’s the perfect ending for us,” Hiott said. “We talked about it as freshmen and everyone laughed at us. We paid our dues for the first three years, and now it’s finally paid off and worked out and we get to play professional baseball.”


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