If professional baseball is your passion, then reserve a time slot in front of the TV, as Major League Baseball’s annual draft is Thursday through Saturday.
Top prospects in the Commonwealth waiting for a telephone to ring are A.J. Reed, University of Kentucky first baseman, and pitcher Nick Burdi at University of Louisville.
Reed, college National Player of the Year, is projected as high as 30th (Texas Rangers). Burdi may go 34th (St. Louis Cardinals). First, he faces an adrenaline-draining weekend as UofL hosts an NCAA super regional at Jack Patterson Stadium.
The important news is: Reed at 6-4, 245 pounds and Burdi at 6-3, 220, are men, 21-year-olds. Physically, and with three years on a college campus where they learned to think, communicate, behave and cooperate at higher levels, be polite to women, respectful to seniors, give to community, be on time, and call home now and then.
At 21, Reed and Burdi have a clue about career obligations and decision-making. Three years college on the resume.
This weekend, MLB draft rules are significant. v High school players, if they have graduated and have not yet attended college or junior college are eligible for draft. v College players, from fouryear schools who have either completed their junior or senior years or are at least 21 years old, are eligible. v And, junior college players, regardless of how many years of school they have completed.
Because the NCAA and Major League Baseball have a sensible accommodation, 18- year- olds and parents/guardian have good options.
• Choose a job.
Enter the work force immediately. In this case, professional baseball rookie league. Pack a bag, say good-bye to Mom and catch a flight to Bellingham, Washington, or Missoula or Medicine Hat, Montana.
• Choose a scholarship.
But, unlike college basketball where Coach Exploitation tells an 18-year-old “… come be a pretend student at my school for seven months and I’ll make ya rich,” the NCAA-MLB pact says a kid signs on for three years.
All of which brings me to Kaleb Duckworth. Great name, isn’t it?
Reports reflect a kid much decorated at Henderson County High School. A community prize. All State (twice), Kentucky Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year and best of it: a 3.8 grade point average.
At 6-3, 210-pounds, Duckworth is a promising outfield prospect. Chance at a professional baseball career. For this weekend’s MLB draft, his name is not among the top 200 prospects, but the kid has a full house hand anyway. Duckworth has a scholarship to Western Kentucky University.
Finally, I will risk a presumption. Duckworth will move to Bowling Green, be homesick awhile, do his own laundry, be exposed to a little Vonnegut and a lot of Twain and play a game he loves then look up one day and be stunned the calendar says, 2017. And, he will tell someone special, “Best three years of my life!”
America, I love this place.
Louisville Ends UK Season
Louisville baseball basked in the glow of what must rank among the best weekend’s in Cardinal history, any sport. UofL beat Kentucky, ended the Wildcats’ season, pushed its record to a gaudy 48-15, and advanced to an NCAA super regional this weekend … at home.
Initially, Cardinal fans and hometown media seemed more interested in gloating over beating Kentucky, than advancing in the NCAAs.
Windfall For Willie
Recovery from ankle surgery, Willie Cauley-Stein won’t play when Kentucky travels to the Bahamas in August. Tough break? Hardly. The amiable Mr. Cool on this roster, Cauley-Stein will watch a little ball, show up at practice, make a beach comb stroll or two, pal around with the guys in sunshine, and watch newcomers Trey Lyles and Karl-Anthony Towns strut their stuff.
Cauley-Stein will chuckle to himself seeing the new kids have fun without having to deal with college basketball’s premier shotblocker next season, their teammate.
Worth Repeating Dept. v Billy Donovan handled beautifully another question about leaving Florida or not at the SEC spring meetings last week.
“… when you start making guarantees about life and start making guarantees about where you’re going to be, that’s not good,” Donovan said. “If for some reason I ever change(d) my mind and did something, I wouldn’t want (people) saying, ‘Well, he promised, he guaranteed, he said this on record.’ I just think when you start doing that, that’s a mistake.”
Straight up. Another reason Donovan is the best in the SEC by a light year or two. v Jim Brown, football Hall of Famer, speaking at a forum in Austin, Texas, last week, said he’s opposed to unionizing college athletes, but is also a critic of the NCAA model.
“It’s not going to be a struggle between the NCAA and the union,” Brown said. “ that will just be (about) money. Put the value back on education.”
According to a USA Report, 11 of the best 25 college football coaching jobs are in the SEC. Ole Miss just missed being the 12th. Best paying jobs? The SEC has seven, led by Nick Saban at Alabama, $5,545,852-a-year.
And so it goes.