Go Pro Baseball Wise: Pro Draft Process

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The baseball draft has changed baseball history. Career baseball players share personal stories about how they got drafted. Why did some players get drafted before others? Shawon Dunston talks about being drafted Number One in the Country.

"You don't choose pro baseball. It chooses you. It's called The Draft"
— Reggie Jackson,
former Major League Player, A's, Yankees; member, Hall of Fame
Pro Baseball Draft Process

Steve Boros, former Major League player, Reds; former Major League Manager, A's: "I don't think a player who wasn't drafted has less of a chance to make it to the big leagues at all. We never discuss it at our meetings. We just carefully analyze his physical skills to determine the best we can whether he has a future as a Major League player."

Did you know the Baseball Draft didn't exist until 1965? It came about as baseball's attempt to level the playing field, so to speak, by giving organizations a more equal chance to sign the best amateur players out there. Bet that's a question in some trivia game someplace!

Here's more baseball history for you. These new rules and guidelines changed the way scouts work with players and their parents. It's often said this was the beginning of the skyrocketing player salaries we hear so much about. Also, it was the beginning of a ranking among the players themselves. Suddenly "What's your draft number?" became one of the first questions rookies ask each other.

Curious about what actually happens during the Draft? About how the organizations prepare for it? Could there be an impact on your pro baseball career if you don't get drafted? Is your draft number a big deal? Why was Ryne Sandberg drafted in the 20th round? Or Keith Hernandez in the 42nd round? Why is it players like Tom Candiotti, Jeff Tredway and many others who qualified under the draft eligibility rules and went on to have long major league careers were never drafted? What's with that?

Frank Robinson, former major league player, 20 years; former manager Indians, Giants, Orioles; only player to win MVP Award in both the AL and NL; member, Hall of Fame: "The number of young players playing baseball at different levels throughout the country is staggering. It's in the millions. Most of them dream about how to get scouted, how to get drafted, and how to become pro baseball players. But their wake up call comes when they realize there's less than eight hundred players in all of Major League Baseball….".

I always imagined the pro baseball draft happening in a smoke filled room with lots of yelling and haggling over players. Boy was I wrong! All I'm going to tell you here is that the pro baseball draft process takes two days, goes approximately thirty rounds (some organizations need more), and roughly 1170 players are drafted. You can check out the details in the book.

Shawon Dunston, Number One draft in the country, 1982, Chicago Cubs: "What's it like being number one? I get asked that so often. Well, it's a great honor for my family and me…..I think part of the interest in me is because I'm not a pitcher. The scouts say they usually go with pitchers first."

Be sure to read the rest of his story in the book.

Milt Bolling, former ML player, Red Sox; former scout, Red Sox: "Every organization looks for pitching first. Pitchers are really the toughest part of scouting today because of the way it's organized. You have such a large area to cover…and many pitchers pitch on the same day. So you pick one, but he might not have his good velocity or his good stuff that day. So you gotta go back when you get the chance. Then you hear some other scout say, 'Gee, did you see Nolan Ryan?' And you tell him you did but he really didn't throw that hard that day, and the scout says to go back because he's throwing hard now!"

If you're thinking, "Will pro baseball draft me?" you need to answer these questions:

Are you eligible for the draft? Will you get drafted out of high school? Junior college? College? Do you know the draft eligibility rules are different for each of those situations?

If the phone rings and you hear the words, "Congratulations, you've been drafted," does that make it official? Or could it be one of your prankster friends? What does make it "official"? What was the round? Do you have to sign? What if you don't sign? Better find out about the Major League Baseball College Scholarship Plan or your Mom will never forgive you. And what do you need to know about the pro baseball contract? If you think you need to get an agent to help you get drafted, watch out! You'd better read the book first.

Cecil Fielder, former player, Tigers: " If you're in high school or college, don't worry about how to be a pro baseball player. If you go out there and enjoy what you do, play hard every game, well, that's the way you're gonna get scouted, then get drafted. The scouts are everywhere and if you do something out there on the field…hit the ball…pitch hard….show some speed…they'll hear about you….".

Mark Grace, former ML player, 15 seasons, Cubs, Diamondbacks: "I was drafted out of college in the 24th round by the Cubs. I was 21 years old. I wasn't a very good player in high school and wasn't even approached by the scouts. But when you get to the college level, scouts are around every game. Whether they're there to look at you or somebody else doesn't matter. But if you play hard, they can't help but notice you. Scouts were there to watch Chris Gwinn, Tony's brother, when I was told there was some talk about me….".

Mike Maddux, former ML pitcher, Phillies, Dodgers, Padres, Pirates, Mets: "Greg Maddux is my kid brother. I was five years ahead of him in school, which is a lot, in a way. I mean, if one brother in a family is scouted and eventually gets drafted, then when another brother comes along, scouts usually give him a look. But when the scouts came to see me, Greg was in little league.

"Greg's considered small for a pitcher, if you go by the book, that is. Well, when he was a senior in high school he wasn't much bigger than your local batboy, and he even LOOKED like a batboy! And there I was at 6'2", 180 pounds. Scouts said they'd like to draft him, but he's too small. Then they'd look at me and I'd tell them I was his size when I was twelve. Our dad's a big man, so the scouts decided he'd be a latecomer."

Mitch Williams, former pitcher, Padres, Cubs, Phillies: "In my senior year of high school the scouts were there because of my brother, Bruce. He's a year ahead of me in school. He got scouted pretty heavily and went with the Brewers. Anyway, I got their attention because of him. And I had an exceptional senior year…was 17-0 with a .87 ERA as a pitcher. I played first base on the days I didn't pitch and led the state in homers. We played 30 games and I pitched 17 of them. I was drafted in the 8th round by the Padres. We haggled a little bit about my bonus, but they knew I wanted to play baseball and didn't want to go to college, so it didn't take long."

YIKES! A pitching record like Mitch Williams' only earned him an eighth round spot. That means at least 210 other players were drafted ahead of him that year. Several of them were pitchers. Makes you think, doesn't it?

Gary Gaetti, former major league player [[sixteen seasons], Twins, Cardinals, Cubs: "I didn't sign when first drafted right out of high school because they didn't offer me enough money and I had enough confidence in my ability to know I'd get drafted again later. So I went to Northwest Missouri State University, but then transferred to a junior college and was drafted the second time by the White Sox in the third round…and again I refused to sign because…".

OH NO YOU DON'T! To get the rest of his story, you'll have to read the book.

Visit our friends at Baseball Almanac for more baseball history and statistics.
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