Thrill of Victory

Why MLB should move back its draft date, Part II: coaches speak out

I have covered college baseball for about a decade, and never given the timing of the Major League Baseball Draft, which comes in the middle of the NCAA Tournament, a second thought until blogging about it on Monday. Furthermore, I figured I’d spoken all I would on the subject for at least another year.

However, Monday’s blog struck a chord with a few of my readers, one of whom, Jeremy Kath, noted that LSU coach Paul Maineri had recently commented on the same topic. I have linked the full video of Maineri’s critique of the draft, and transcribed the comments below.

By the way, Maineri’s comments came on the evening of Friday, June 7, and in case you’re wondering if these were some sour-grapes comments from a coach trying to excuse a loss, Maineri’s Tigers had just beaten Oklahoma to move within a game of advancing to the College World Series.

Anyway, here’s what Maineri said of the day’s events:

“It was about as tough a day as I’ve ever had in coaching, I’ll be honest. It was tough, really tough. Last night, I stayed up right to the very end praying that Jacoby Jones’ name was called, and it wasn’t called for 73 picks. I sent him a text message at 11:30 last night, ‘Hang in there, J.J., tomorrow’s a new day, something good’s gonna happen to you, get a good night’s sleep, okay?’ And then fortunately, he got picked.

“But we had several guys picked today, literally five minutes before we’re ready to take the field for batting practice. I’ve got a couple of players walking in the hallway, on the phone, talking to advisers, talking to the clubs, one’s being told he’s being drafted in the seventh round by a team, and then the seventh round (comes) and they don’t pick him, they don’t pick him in the eighth round. I mean, it was awful. It was awful for our kids to have to deal with that today, and for the life of me, I can’t understand why they did this.

“These kids, from the time they put a glove on their hand, they dream of playing professional baseball. It’s a big day in their life, and yet they’re also playing the most important games of their lives. And having to balance those two things, it’s almost inhumane to put the kids through that, honestly. And we had a handful of kids drafted, but we had a handful of kids we expected to get drafted today that weren’t, and they had to put their own individual interest on the shelf to focus on playing this game tonight.

“Ty Ross, for example, I thought he would be drafted today, we all thought he would be drafted. Yet he went out there and caught a magnificent game. So proud of that kid. He’ll get drafted tomorrow, I’m sure he will, but you see what I mean. It’s the biggest day of their life because it affects their future, and yet they have to play a ballgame against an outstanding opponent. It was a tough day. I wasn’t in a very good mood most of the day, to be honest with you.”

(Ross, incidentally, was taken by the Giants in the 12th round on Saturday.)

As an aside, I had reached out to Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin before Monday’s blog; Corbin was on the road at the time and responded back to me on Tuesday through e-mail. I have copied and pasted his comments below:

“Not sure what the best answer is for the draft… All I know is that it (draft) emotionally interferes with many kids at a crucial time for their team and University. It’s like having the NFL draft on December 30… It’s the NBA draft on March 1… It’s the family member who knows that their brother is graduating on a certain day, so they schedule their wedding on that same day… It’s emotional conflict.”

Maineri and Corbin are obviously two of the game’s more successful and respected coaches. I can’t articulate my feelings any better than they did, so I’ll stop there. But hopefully, more coaches will continue to speak out, more people will write about it, and MLB will eventually do the right thing and move the draft until after the postseason.