The Major League Baseball 2011 first-year player draft is fast approaching. For thousands of players, it represents a culmination of a lifetime of practice and dedication.
For many Cal Poly players, it will be the big step that transforms them from student athletes into professionals.
After a roller-coaster season of injuries, upsets and letdowns, head coach Larry Lee said many of Cal Poly’s current players have earned their spot in the draft this season.
Lee said Bobby Crocker would most likely be drafted highest. Crocker who finished third in the Big West with .497 slugging percentage, .339 batting average and five home runs.
“He’s what professional teams are looking for,” Lee said. “He’s got good size, speed and power. He just has a high upside. He’s a perfect fit for a professional club.”
But for Cal Poly’s junior center fielder and lead-off batter, this won’t be his first shot at the big leagues.
In 2008, coming right out of Aptos High School, Watsonville, Calif., Crocker was selected in the 38th round by the Oakland Athletics, but he turned it down because he said he didn’t feel ready.
“I wasn’t very good coming out of high school,” Crocker said. “I had a lot of holes in my swing and just wasn’t developed enough.”
But with help from Lee and his experience at Cal Poly, Crocker said he improved his game.
“I came here and Coach Lee just took me to another level,” Crocker said. “He not only made me want to put in hard work but to become the professional baseball player I’ve always wanted to be.”
Crocker said he feels at the top of his game, and knows he is ready to take his game to the next level.
“I’m very excited,” Crocker said. “It’s going to change my life in a couple (of) days. I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing, but there’s nothing else I’d rather do than play every day. I’m looking forward to it.”
Besides Crocker, other Cal Poly players have fought hard to separate themselves from the pack in this year’s draft.
Fischback finished the season with a 7-3 record, 3.33 ERA and 77 strikeouts over 92 innings. Radeke posted an 8-4 record, 3.07 ERA and 95 strikeouts over 99.2 innings.
Radeke said the anticipation to be drafted has built up not only over the past season, but also ever since he was young and wanted to play in the MLB.
“I’m ready to start my professional career,” Radeke said. “I put in my time here and I’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. This is something I’ve wanted since I was a little kid.”
Johnson threw an incredible 40 strikeouts over 27 2/3 innings, issuing only nine walks and giving up five earned runs all season en route to five saves and a 2-0 record.
This past season has been a breakout year for Johnson, and he said he wants to continue to improve and make an impact on the teams he plays for.
“It’s a dream come true,” Johnson said. “I’m just going to continue to work as hard as I can, and do the best I can, so I can take this as far as I can go.”
Other players Lee said had a chance to go in the lower rounds include pitchers Eugene Wright and Frankie Reed, and infielders Matt Jensen and J.J. Thompson.
The draft will occur over a three-day period starting at 4 p.m. on June 6. The first round of picks will take place on Monday, rounds two through 30 will take place on June 7 and rounds 31 to 50 will take place on June 8.
For now, all the players can do is wait.
Some, like Crocker, will be with family for most of the week. Others, like Radeke, will continue studying for finals with the phone glued to their side. Or, like Johnson, they will eagerly watch every draft moment on T.V.
Each will be eagerly awaiting that life-changing call.