Throughout the three days of the MLB Draft, the Whitecaps followed each pick. For some, it ended in a phone call and a contract offer, for others it ended in a sense of false hope and questions about their future. Photo credit Sadie Parker.
by Eamonn Ryan
BREWSTER—For six hours, Dylan Leach (Missouri State) refreshed his phone, hitting the little circular arrow in the corner of his screen in hopes that it would bring him one step closer to his dream of becoming a Major League Baseball player.
He wanted to see his name on that screen, next to an organization and a draft pick. He could have gone in the first or 20th round, but after refreshing once more at pick 614 and not seeing his name, a mix of emotions engulfed him.
“It kind of hurt me. I was watching it the whole time just waiting for my name. Even in the 20th round I still had that hope,” Leach said.
Leach and other draft-eligible players watched as their college and Whitecaps teammates received the calls they had spent countless hours working toward in the MLB Draft from Sunday July 9 to Tuesday July 11.
For those who got the call, it was elation. For those who didn’t, it was deflation.
While they were obviously excited for their teammates—including former Whitecap Josh Timmerman, who received his phone call just beyond the left-field dugout at Stony Brook Field—it was not the easiest enthusiasm to hold.
“And you know what, congrats to Josh [Timmerman] and Ernie [Day],” Leach said. “I also felt like there was a lot of guys out there [in the bullpen] that could have went.”
A number of Whitecaps pitchers who have been staples in the rotation and bullpen all summer, such as Javyn Pimental (Missouri) and Joey DeChiaro (Rutgers), were draft-eligible but their names were not read either.
“A lot of guys were very antsy, very anxious,” DeChiaro said. “I kind of went into it saying to myself that even if it doesn’t happen, you know, I still get to experience being up here in the Cape for the rest of the summer.”
DeChiaro can feel pretty secure in that as well. His arm has been consistent and manager Jamie Shevchik has trusted him in eight appearances. He pitched a 3.52 ERA and struck out 18 batters as of Friday, July 14.
But that does not mean he is satisfied with a good summer. DeChiaro, along with the many other Whitecaps still have opportunities to sign undrafted free agent contracts.DeChiaro is also transferring to Rutgers from Old Dominion this fall, where he will join former Whitecaps Ben Gorski and Jake Marshall.
“I’ve only known them for about a month and some change and they’re like my best friends already,” DeChiaro said. “It’s gonna be a great experience, I think, and playing for the state of New Jersey and just being able to play back at home, it’s gonna be fun.”
When the draft passes, what else is there to do besides move on? If undrafted free agent contracts don’t work out, players can either put their head down and get to work or dwell on the situation and let it affect them.
“I think at the end of the day, if you have that day-to-day routine and that day-to-day work ethic and just absolutely loving coming to the baseball field every day and that whole process, you know, I think it becomes a little bit easier for those guys,” pitching coach Brian Del Rosso said.
Leach is one of the players who had been in talks about signing an undrafted free agent contract, but if his needs are not met, he has to move on.
“I’ve talked with some people and a free agent deal is not out of the books, but it has to be a good enough number for me to do it,” he said.
Del Rosso’s message to undrafted players emphasized just how crucial it is to not let the draft represent their careers. The love of the game and the commitment to the grind is what should motivate players to have an even better year next year.
“You will always look at other guys that get drafted and you always try to compare yourself,” Del Rosso said. “But I think again, it goes back to staying on yourself, worrying about your everyday process.”
Leach said that the comparisons can be easy to fall into, but now he’s just focused on the future.
“There’s always next year you know, I can go have one more year and grow because I’m still only 20 years old and in college,” Leach said.
Both he and DeChiaro saw the outcome of this year’s draft, but both know that there were plenty of older players drafted at age 23 and 24, even. DeChiaro is 23 and Leach is only 20.
“It kind of gives me hope that like, I have a shot, you know,” DeChiaro said. “I’m going to try and you know, pitch my butt off at Rutgers and see if somebody will call my name next year.”
As Leach grabs his team meal and leaves Stony Brook Field on a warm Tuesday night after watching 20 rounds pass, he still has appreciation for what he’s doing and knows what’s next. If he does get a shot at professional baseball, he won’t let it slip.
“[My goal] would be to work harder than anybody there,” Leach said. “I want to play baseball as long as I possibly can…I’m gonna work my butt off to get to the league one day and, and stay there for a long time, that’s my goal.”