Many elite high school and college baseball players will keep an eye on next week’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, which is typically the first step in a professional career.
Two years ago, Sean Harrell’s name never came up in the draft despite finishing his college career at Georgia College by being named an All-American. The Lakeside High School product considered giving up on his big league dreams.
“Once I didn’t get drafted, I thought I was done with baseball at first,” he said. “I even took the MCAT for med school.”
But while Harrell was studying to become a doctor, he was contacted by the Arizona Diamondbacks, who wanted to take another look at the speedy outfielder.
Though the workout didn’t result in a pro contract offer, Harrell reached out to the independent minor leagues. Justin Lord, a Grovetown resident and pitching coach for the Southern Illinois Miners, connected with Harrell, who eventually signed to play with the Frontier League team. Harrell opened his second season last weekend.
“As a baseball player, I absolutely love it,” he said. “Because in independent ball you play baseball the way it was meant to be played. It’s not affiliated, so you don’t have instructions coming down from above about who to play or which high draft pick to treat differently.”
Harrell hit .345 with 21 RBI and 16 stolen bases in 59 games last season. He’s hitting .222 through the first week of the season on a team that entered Saturday’s play a game out of first place in the league’s East Division.
COMEBACK: Former USC Aiken star Bill Rice got his pro career back on track last week when he signed with the Chicago White Sox.
Rice, who was originally signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010 as a non-drafted free agent, played two years in affiliated ball, reaching the Single-A level with the Lakewood BlueClaws in the South Atlantic League.
But the 23-year-old outfielder was released before the 2012 season and moved to independent ball, where he hit .300 in 17 games with the Camden Riversharks of the Atlantic League.
Rice is expected to join Chicago’s Single-A affiliate in Kannapolis, N.C. this week. The Intimidators made their only scheduled trip to Augusta in April.
PROSPECT WATCH: Though Washington Nationals first-round draft picks Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper have made most of the team’s headlines, another first-round pick within the organization has started to make news in the minor leagues.
Corey Brown, the 59th overall pick in 2007 who was later traded by the Oakland Athletics to the Nationals, has spent the 2012 season playing for the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. He spent last week breaking a team record with home runs in five consecutive games.
The center fielder entered Saturday’s game hitting .297 in the International League with 12 homers and 30 RBI in 48 games.