Coppola: MLB Draft And Getting To The Show

By William Coppola

The 2018 MLB Draft will take place from June 4th to June 6th. It will consist of 44 rounds plus 15 compensation picks. That puts the number of prospects who will be drafted at about 1335 and starting on July 2nd, there are the international signings averaging a little over 250 new players.
When you add a bunch of free agent walk-ons, that’s a large number of players coming into pro ball every year. There will be some who will choose not to sign out of that group drafted as they hope to move up in next years draft. Sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn’t. On average each team will sign about 50 to 60 new players.
Each organization fields teams from the major league level to AAA, AA, A+, A, Short season A, 1 or 2 Rookie league teams and one or two foreign teams. Assume 27 players per team, which includes players on the DL, and that’s about 250-300 players per organization.
So what happens to the players that are already on those teams throughout an organization when all these new arrivals come to camp? Obviously there is not enough room for all of them with these new prospects being signed, so somebody has to go.

Each organization from the major leagues down to the rookie level, will release about 50 or more players over the course of a season. For many of them it will be, good-bye, good luck, nice knowing you. Some will get jobs in baseball as scouts, coaches, or other positions in various organizations in pro ball. Some will end up coaching at the college or high school level. Some will find spots in independent leagues in the USA and Mexico or play overseas in Asia and Europe.

Others will become instructional coaches for amateur players at levels starting with “T” ball kids. Some will go over to the other side and try becoming umpires. I, hear that some have even tried to become sports writers. Others will move on to everyday jobs. But hey, don’t feel sorry for these gifted athletes, they have all lived a charmed life up until the ax falls on their dreams of making it to the big leagues.

They have all gone through a euphoric rise to the top of their game on the amateur level. They were the stars in their small towns and cities for much of their young lives. Years of playing, hoping and dreaming from little league games to high school and summer ball on dusty fields across America.

Then the excitement of being drafted by a Major League team. All of that will come to an end for some of these one time phenoms. Even if it was only a few years of being a pro, they will leave with a life time of memories and a host of close friends in baseball. Yes it will be the end of one player’s career, it also marks the beginning of someone else’s dreams.

Every time I go to see the newly signed kids playing in rookie ball, the air is filled with excitement as I watch these young wide eyed hopefuls hustle around the back fields of the player development complexes and each with the thought in mind of making it to the big leagues.

Most of them will have a good run in the minors and a few will make it to the big leagues. But when they arrive that first year they discover quickly that this is not going to be that easy. Each one is well aware of the opportunity before them and will work harder than ever to make it happen. But like the prospects they just replaced, every swing and miss, every soft ground out and every error in the field becomes magnified to them.
When they see that a 6’6” 19- year old lefty is throwing balls that look like peas and they can’t hit it, for the first time in their lives they fear failure. When that same big pitcher learns that there are a bunch of hitters who can hit peas 425 feet, he too begins to realize just how hard this baseball thing will be for him.

Being out on the field in June, July and August under the hot, humid days of Florida where all the games are at high noon, tests their hearts and bodies in the Gulf Coast League or what is known as the “Gulf Toast League” by scouts that have to cover it.

An average of 107 out of about 300 players from the first 10 rounds of each draft ever making it to the major leagues and for some it is only a short cup of coffee. It is often said that getting to the big leagues is tough and staying there for more than five years is even harder. Whether they make it to the “Show” or not is a matter of skill and luck.
For those who don’t, the fact that they are part of an elite group of gifted athletes will always be something no one can ever take away from them.

For all these players who get drafted, it will be the biggest day of their lives and they will remember that moment when their name was called forever. It will be the last chapter for them to see if their dreams can become a reality.

William Coppola has 40 years of baseball listed on his resume as a player, coach, umpire, and advanced scout. 

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