PAWTUCKET – There’s no doubt that getting drafted into professional baseball ranks is a pretty significant milestone. Yet as several inhabitants of the PawSox clubhouse explained earlier this week, there are several behind-the-scenes variables that are just as important as learning your name has been called.
A three-sport standout at Texas’ Liberty-Eylau High School, Will Middlebrooks didn’t have time to attend the type of baseball showcase events that have come to serve as a prime means of exposure. That didn’t prevent the scouts from dropping by his high school and summer league games and formulate the belief that Middlebrooks was draft-worthy.
What round he would be selected was somewhat unclear, hence why Middlebrooks brought aboard an advisor who eventually became his agent in ex-Red Sox pitcher Joe Sambito.
“I was told that I would go anywhere in the first 10 rounds, but I was happy where I ended up,” said Middlebrooks, who wound up going in the fifth round of the June 2007 draft.
Had Middlebrooks been taken after the rounds that scouts gave him as a ballpark figure, there’s a chance he would have said, “Thanks, but no thanks” and utilized the scholarship that was waiting in the wings at Texas A&M.
“Opportunity is a big deal, but at the same time, there’s a monetary side to consider when taken away from school and a scholarship opportunity. That’s just the way it is,” stated Middlebrooks, who reportedly agreed to a signing bonus worth $925,000. “If it’s life-changing money, go for it. You may never get the opportunity again. If it’s borderline, you take a chance on school, but I got lucky enough.”
In the case of Pawtucket pitcher Allen Webster, he was a youngster of simple tastes. Coming out of McMichael (N.C.) High School in 2008, Webster was ticketed to head to the local community college. Upon learning that he was an 18th-round selection of the Los Angeles Dodgers, it became a matter of not how large or small his signing bonus would be, but how quickly he could sign.
“I really had no clue about the draft. I was just so excited to get drafted that I didn’t care how much I would sign for,” said Webster. “I didn’t know any better. I was ready to start (playing pro ball), no matter what.”
Webster ended up receiving a $20,000 bonus. With his parents serving as his primary counsel, the hard-throwing right-hander asked if it was possible for the Dodgers to offer more. He was quickly informed “No.
“I really didn’t know about negotiating. (The Dodgers) brought the contract and I signed it. That’s basically it,” said Webster.
Fellow PawSox pitcher Terry Doyle was drafted the same year as Webster, going in the 37th round to the Chicago White Sox. Doyle had already been through the draft rigors once in 2007, but elected to return to Boston College for his senior year after the Dodgers used their pick in the 21st round on him.
“I was looking for a bigger signing bonus than what I was slotted for. Plus, going back to school and getting the education was always a priority of mine,” Doyle said. “A lot of guys who get drafted their junior year, they’ll probably still get drafted again their senior year.”
While learning one’s draft fate is an exercise in supreme patience, it’s also far from the only item to ponder before players officially begin their climb through the minor-league ranks.
“The draft is something that nobody can predict,” Doyle noted. “There’s so much stuff that goes into it, from a player’s signability to whether or not he falls to a lower round than originally anticipated; it’s really a crapshoot. You can be optimistic and hope you go high, but it’s really hard to tell.”