CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- A former Perfect Game All-American took the mound Thursday night in Cedar Rapids when the visiting Beloit Snappers played the Kernels. Dylan Covey, a first-rounder out of high school in 2010 who passed up his offer to stay close to home to deal with Type 1 Diabetes, showed he is making the most of his second chance to play professional baseball.
Covey was high on Perfect Game’s radar in high school, ranking as the No. 5 prospect for the class of 2010. With a lively fastball that touched 97 mph, Covey highlighted PG events like the National Showcase in Minneapolis and the All-American Classic in San Diego.
“Being a top prospect out of high school, there was a lot of pressure, but it’s still just a lot of fun,” recalled Covey. “I had a lot of fun at all the events and showcases I went to.”
After attending five Perfect Game events, Covey showed scouts of the collegiate and professional levels how dominant he was on the mound. The Milwaukee Brewers selected Covey with the 14th overall pick in the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, a surreal moment for Covey, and a blessing in disguise down the road.
“I really had no idea where I was gonna be drafted out of high school,” Covey said. “I got drafted by the Brewers and I didn’t even think that they were interested in me that much.”
The Brewers may have ended up saving Covey’s life. Hours before he was supposed to make his decision to sign or not, Covey had learned that the Brewers discovered he had Type 1 Diabetes. This form of diabetes is most commonly found in children and young adults and can be fatal if left untreated.
This discovery had an immediate effect in the Brewers and Covey. “When I first found out I didn’t know what to expect,” said Covey. “I didn’t think there would be an issue with the Brewers, but I had no idea.”
The Brewers lowered their offer to Covey after making the discovery. Covey wasn’t too familiar with diabetes or what having it really meant.
“The doctors told me it’s gonna be life-altering, not in a bad way, just it’s gonna take a little bit of time to get used to it,” Covey recalled. It became clearer to Covey that he needed to stay home and learn how to cope with the chronic disease rather than dealing with it away from home at just 18-years-old.
“I felt like after learning about it a little more the best option for me was to stay close to home and go to school in San Diego.”
Going to the University of San Diego meant he would be a comfortable two hours from his home in the Los Angeles area. He felt that being close to his parents was a priority at that point, just in case something was to happen.
“It might not have worked out from the financial standpoint, but I think it was the best decision for me at the time,” Covey said. “I feel like I was so disconnected then just cause I don’t think I was ready to go into minor league baseball.”
Covey would be ready to leave home the second time around. The Oakland Athletics took him in the fourth round of this year’s draft. He is now nearly 2,000 miles from his home, in the unfamiliar town of Beloit, Wisconsin. Covey said he has learned to live with his disease and is dong well, but road trips can be a little tough at times.
“We get home at 11:30 p.m. and there’s nothing open but McDonald’s and fast food, so that’s a little difficult,” said Covey. “The biggest challenge is finding the right kind of food and treating your body right, for diabetics especially.”
Being a diabetic has not affected Covey’s performance in any negative way since being drafted. After putting up great numbers for the Low-A Vermont Lake Monsters, he received a quick promotion to Beloit. If he continues to progress, Beloit will be his furthest home away from home from here on out.
Another plus about being taken by a California team is location. Oakland, as well as their Advanced-A and Triple-A affiliates, is California-based. Perhaps even more promising for Covey is the success Oakland has had with young pitchers in their system.
The Oakland Athletics seem to have a knack for raising pitchers from draft day to the pros. Names of pitchers who went through the entire farm system to the majors with the A’s include: Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Rich Harden, Tim Hudson, Joe Blanton, and Trevor Cahill. Two of the five current starters in Oakland’s rotation were A’s draft picks. Clearly, whatever Oakland’s formula for pitcher development is, it works.
“I benefitted from going to college and then getting drafted by the A’s,” Covey said. “They said they aren’t gonna hold you down if you’re putting up the numbers. That makes you wanna work that much harder and play that much better.”
Covey realizes how fortunate he is to be in an organization where the track record for pitcher development has been so successful. He hopes to take the same route as many recognizable MLB pitchers have in the past with Oakland.
His dominance was on display Thursday night in Cedar Rapids, when he threw 5 2/3 innings and gave up just two earned runs while recording four strikeouts. He now sports a 3.18 earned-run average.