Tournaments | Story | 6/5/2019

Next wave eyes 2020 MLB Draft

Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: Robert Moore (Perfect Game)

MARIETTA, Ga. – The 2019 MLB Draft has come and gone, as hundreds of players have fulfilled a lifelong dream. It’s also put the 2020 draft class on the clock, as those players could hear their own names called next year. 

At the 2019 17u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational, a number of top ranked 2020 high school players were in attendance and offered some thoughts on their big day potentially being a year from now. 

In the meantime, some of these players have been enamored seeing their former teammates and friends being selected in the first few rounds. That’s certainly the case for Robert Moore (No. 13 ranked), a shortstop for the 17u Royals Scout Team who was on the same team last summer as a 16 year old.

“The guys on our team last year, we had about six guys get picked in the first two days,” Moore, an Arkansas commit, said. “It was really cool following that. I’m really good friends with Christian Cairo and Marcus Smith. Marcus got third round and Christian got fourth, so it was just so cool to hear their names called. I’m not going to worry about that. Just go out and play and it will take care of itself.”

It’s a reminder that they’re just one step away. A reminder that’s hard for some to wrap their minds around as pitcher Marquis Grissom Jr. (No. 67) of MGBA 17u explained.

“When I heard the 2019 draft was starting, I got nervous,” Grissom, a Georgia Tech pledge, said. “My heart dropped because I know that could be me in 365 days. Just seeing some of my friends selected in the second round, third round, it motivated me to keep grinding knowing it will pay off next year.”

Josh Shuler (No. 44), an outfielder and South Carolina commit, now sees himself playing for the same team that CJ Abrams, the No.6 overall pick in this year’s draft, was on last year with DRB Elite 17u.

“CJ is a great player,” Shuler said. “Just to see him go is surreal. He got $5.7 million. That’s crazy.”

Along the way there’s been a number of influences who have helped shape these young men into the players they are today. For a vast majority, that main influence comes from their father.

“As soon as I was born [my dad] put a bat in my hand,” Shuler said. “I’ve just grown up playing baseball and football. I dropped football to focus on baseball. He’s just been training me and pushing me really ever since.”

Some players like Grissom Jr. grew up around the game with their father’s playing professionally. The elder Grissom carved out a 17-year career in the majors. Likewise, catcher Alek Boychuk (No. 46) of Royals Scout Team 17u finds his influence from a current MLB player.

“Definitely the McCann brothers, Brian McCann and Brad McCann,” Boychuk, a South Carolina pledge, said. “In the offseason I work with Brian a lot. He teaches me a lot catching wise and I hit with him in the offseason. He’s been my mentor throughout this whole process. He’s taught me everything talking to guys, what to do, my eating. He’s really helped me through this process and I thank him a lot for that.”

For all these players, there’s a certain point where they reach their own ‘aha’ moment. It’s that time when they realize that baseball is truly something that can become their career. That moment helps fuel them during the grind throughout the baseball calendar year. 

For third baseman Parks Harber (No. 54) of 643 DP Cougars 17U Pralgo, it was at one of Perfect Game’s premier showcases.

“I first kind of realized that last year at the PG Junior National Showcase,” Harber, a Georgia pledge, said. “I came in really under the radar and I was looking up to a lot of those big-name guys. I felt like I really belonged and I proved myself. That was kind of the first time I really realized, ‘Wow, I really can compete with the best.’”

Still, that moment hasn’t genuinely sunk in for others. 

“Those thoughts are still in my head,” Moore said. “It hasn’t become real yet. At first it was just get your college paid for, and now it’s, ‘OK, you could possibly play pro ball.’ I just go out there and have fun and get better one percent each day.”

Through it all, there’s the million dollar question: “What’s the ‘why’ for each player? Why do they continue to play this game and dedicate the time and hours to the national pasttime? 

Oftentimes, it’s a love for the game that couldn’t be replicated elsewhere as southpaw Jackson Phipps (No. 23) of 643 DP Cougars 17U Pralgo noted.

“I love this game,” Phipps, another South Carolina commit, said. “I’ve loved it since I was three years old. I remember my mom, she has a video of me, I was three and my brother was playing. I was crying because I couldn’t play, so I just ran away from her and ran out onto the middle of the field during the middle of the game. 

“It’s something I’ve always loved. It’s not just for me. It’s for everybody from the little kids to the Major League guys. Everybody connects in some way. Baseball is just a game of failure, and I love that.”

For pitcher Blake Money (No. 36) of East Cobb Astros 17u and Harber, there’s a deeper meaning and incentive.

“My ‘why’ would be the coaches I’ve had in the past,” Money, an LSU pledge, said. “Mike Maundrell was one of my coaches. He was my pitching coach. The first one I met when I came down here. He passed away last summer due to cardiac arrest. He’s a really big ‘why’ in why I keep pushing forward to progress everyday. It’s a kid’s game and I just enjoy playing it. It’s always fun to come out here and play the game I love.”

“I play because I love the game,” Harber said. “I can change my family’s life. I can buy my mom a house. I can take care of her for the rest of my life hopefully if I have a successful career, so I think that’s a big reason. It’s just take care of the family, help myself, and help everyone around me that I love.”

For all these players, the next year will be here in a flash and the opportunity of a lifetime could soon be in their grasps.

“Time is just flying,” Boychuk said. “This summer is going to be over sooner than you think. School is going to be over and the draft is going to be there. It’s kind of crazy.”

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