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Junior Fall @ UMD Part 2

In part two of two, Alex goes through his pre-MLB Draft process and the remainder of the fall semester.

Going into my junior fall semester, I knew this was going to be my last year as a Terp. I desperately wanted to make the jump to the next level and become a professional. After the summer in Keene, I felt I was ready to play with an affiliate on my chest, I just had to prove it now. Coming back to Maryland in the fall of 2014, I had my heart set on winning a role as a starting pitcher. As a starter, I believed this would be beneficial, the scouts would see me on a regular basis as opposed to guessing when I would come out of the pen which was more of a baseball situational need. From a team perspective, having an experienced arm coming off a good summer season would make the team stronger. After speaking with the coaching staff and voicing my thoughts and desires, I was taken back by their response. They explained to me that they saw me at the next level as a high octane back end of the bullpen, set-up man/closer. I had no reason not to trust them and complaining wasn’t in my DNA. After voicing my concerns, I remembered that the team was more important than I was and that if I was throwing well at the end of the game, chances were that we were winning a lot. Ultimately, giving the team more recognition and opportunity to showcase our talents and the winning culture we were building. As the fall went on, I embraced my role as the Old Liners closer, and I loved every minute of it.

The Fall World Series was coming up and that was always a great opportunity to showcase our skills and talents, but also our competitive nature and personality to MLB scouts. This fall seemed like there were at least twenty scouts at our weekend series inner squads. We had a roster full of draft-eligible talent, as well as underclassmen that were already creating a buzz around themselves in the professional world. With the stands filled with bucket hats, stopwatches, clipboards, and radar guns, it became normal to perform in front of these scouts. The tightness we felt at the beginning of the fall was quickly removed and turned into a burning opportunity we couldn’t wait for each time we took the field.

As the Fall World Series got underway there were more scouts at “The Bob” than I could remember in recent years. There must’ve been over forty scouts in the stands. To be completely honest, I don’t think anyone really took notice of how many there really were until after the first game. We were too focused on beating the opposing team and hoisting the trophy at the end of the weekend. It definitely helped that we had been in this environment all fall, playing in pressure situations, and being evaluated by professional scouts. Game one was won by the Old Liners, and I earned the save, closing the door in the bottom of the ninth inning. The next day there were just as many scouts at the stadium for game two, if not more. Game two was extremely tight from the first inning to the ninth. Both teams were battling, taking punches, and giving them right back. The personal insults and chatter were at an all-time high between dugouts. So much competitiveness and adrenaline on one field, it was bound to erupt at some point, the thing was both teams were determined to come out on top. I came in the game again in the ninth inning with a one-run lead and did my job securing the series win. After the last pitch was thrown and the final out was made, I allowed my emotions to pour out of me, pounding my chest and barking choice words at the Aggie dugout, while celebrating with my team. I swear it felt like I was pitching in the actual MLB World Series, but that was the atmosphere that we would create for ourselves, exploding with energy.

As the fall semester finished there was a three-day window that had been set up for MLB scouts to meet and interview draft-eligible prospects. This provided the opportunity to get to know us on a personal level and see if we would be a good fit for their respective teams. Before a meeting time was scheduled, we had to fill out a questionnaire from the scout, provided by their club. I remember sitting in class, the locker room, and the student union building filling out these endless questionnaires and mental tests. It was an honor to be asked to fill one out, but after filling out thirty of them I wished that MLB had a universal questionnaire. Each meeting was different from the next. Some scouts wanted to get personal about family life and simulate real-life situations to get a better understanding of how we’d think and react. Other scouts wanted to have in-depth conversations about our individual style of play, why we throw the pitches we do or why we stand a certain way in the batter’s box. Then there were the scouts that I had developed relationships with over the years, from being scouted in high school to college. I was friendly with multiple scouts, particularly from the Mets, Royals, Orioles, Mariners, and Rays. Based on my interactions with the scouts from those clubs, I thought for sure I would end up with one of those teams come draft day. My favorite question to answer that almost every scout wanted to know was, “are the inner squad games always that intense?” I loved that question for so many different reasons. That question told me that we had something special with this group. It showed outsiders how prepared and competitive we were as a group. My response was the same for each scout that asked me, “We have a group of ultra-competitive, intense, hungry guys that loved to compete and talk smack.” After meeting with each scout, I became more confident in my abilities, preparation, and work ethic. The dream of becoming a professional ballplayer was in my sights, I just had to keep going.