PITTSBURGH — Monday night, the MLB Draft will begin with the first round. The draft will be televised on MLB Network, with the later rounds online at MLB.com.
Being drafted is a big moment for any ballplayer, and almost every American playing the majors went through it at least once. Even for guys that are many years removed from their selection, the impact of draft day remains a clear memory.
“It’s a special day,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle who was taken ninth overall by the Kansas City Royals in 1975.
It’s also a day that’s changed a lot since Hurdle answered the phone at his Michigan home four decades ago. The draft went from completely unpublicized to being available on the radio and now television and the internet.
Hurdle remembered the scene in his parents’ house the day of the draft.
“[There was an] old-time rotary phone on the wall,” he said. “You didn’t know who it was. Nobody’s name comes up. Every time the phone would ring, there would be a little bit of a frenzied look in the house. I would got and get it and then, ‘It’s for you, mom.’”
Eventually, Hurdle got a phone call from a familiar voice — Royals scout Bill Fisher — and he was selected near the top of the first round. But Hurdle knows all too well that the round alone doesn’t prove what a player’s future will bring. That’s what holds his interest in the process.
“It’s still an exciting day because they’re still going to be a whole bunch of kids that are really excited,” he said. “There’s going to be some kids that get some feelings hurt. There will be some kids that get drafted low that are going to finish high and some kids drafted high that are going to finish low.”
Catcher Chris Stewart is the oldest player on the roster at 35 and while technology had advanced quite a bit in that time, he still was informed of his selection by a piece of now-outdated tech.
“We were all working out at the junior college that day and we had it on over the loudspeakers,” Stewart said. “I think I was there for the first seven rounds. We had two or three guys on the team get taken, so it was pretty cool listening to those guys. I go home and there’s a message on the answering machine.”
The Chicago White Sox had taken in Stewart in the 12th round. He was one of the guys that were excited about his selection.
“I was expected to drafted, but later,” he said. “I was always told, ‘Thirtieth or later, you’re a draft-and-follow guy.’ I was a backup in junior college, so I didn’t really get much playing time. The scouts hadn’t really seen much of me.”
While the White Sox saw more in Stewart did than the rest of the league did, they also didn’t see eye to eye with Stewart, so he didn’t sign right away. Back then, Stewart could have been drafted and followed, with the White Sox having until the next year’s draft to sign him.
Instead Stewart went and played in a summer wood-bat league and performed well enough that the White Sox relented and he signed in August. That’s not a process that can play out anymore. Players that will be selected in the 2017 Draft have only until July 7 to decide whether or not they want to sign with the team that drafted them.
In 2013, Chad Kuhl knew he wanted to sign with whoever drafted him, but a quirk of the draft pool rules was working against him. If he was taken in the 10th round or higher, he would be subject to the same draft pool as the team’s first-round pick. Kuhl was projected to go somewhere between the sixth and the 11th round, right on the border of that signability concern. A higher pick would mean more money — probably — but also a lot more uncertainty. Then there was the fact that the 11th round wouldn’t take place until the next day. That uncertainty wasn’t helped by the way Kuhl’s draft day went — absolutely radio silence. By 2013, the process could be watched, and so that’s what he did, with the absence of other information.
“I remember watching from home and I didn’t hear anything,” Kuhl said. “I was super nervous. I didn’t know. I could have been picked that day, I could have been picked the third day. A lot of uncertainly and especially when I didn’t hear anything. My family was all following along. I was watching TV when the phone rang. … Brian Selman, my area scout, called me. I didn’t even know what round it was.”
Kuhl was taken in the ninth and signed for $145,000 — nearly 50 percent more than he could have in the 11th.
The Pirates will start a three-game series with the Colorado Rockies with Jameson Taillon on the mound Monday night. Phil Gosselin was optioned to Indianapolis as the corresponding move for Taillon. Here is tonight’s lineup:
Gm 64: #Pirates (28-35) v
Taillon 3.31 v
— Alan Saunders (@ASaunders_PGH) June 12, 2017