Whether you’re the No. 7 pick in the first round in 2014 — like Aaron Nola — No. 483 in the 16th round in 2005 — like David Hernandez — or somewhere in between — like Cameron Rupp and Ryan Howard — the Major League Baseball draft will always hold a special place in your heart.
After all, it’s the first time you can truly start to believe that dream of one day becoming a major leaguer might not be such a fantasy.
“It’s an exciting time,” said the 31-year-old Hernandez, who actually was drafted three times — in high school and both years at California’s Cosumnes River College, before finally deciding the time was right and working out an unofficial deal with the Orioles beforehand. “Growing up, you dream of playing in the big leagues and don’t really understand the process it takes afterwards.
“We just kind of got around the computer back then. It wasn’t on TV yet. My third year I had certain teams calling asking ‘if you’ll take this much if we draft you in this or that round?’ Fortunately I had a deal in place.
“It’s just amazing how far it’s come. Ten years ago it wasn’t on TV. Now they’re flying guys up to MLB Network headquarters for the first round.”
One of those guys will be the Phillies selection with the No. 1 pick when the 2016 draft gets underway tomorrow night. According to Nola, who said he knew nothing for certain until then-Commissioner Bud Selig announced the Phils had taken him, that top pick should savor the moment.
“Take it all in,” said Nola, realizing how far he’s come since he and his fellow LSU teammates — several of whom had also been drafted — celebrated just two years ago. “Embrace every moment of it and let your family embrace every moment.
“It’s a cool thing to go through.”
Even when the team that picks you comes as a complete surprise.
“One of the first meetings I had that year was with the Phillies and then I didn’t hear from [them] the rest of the season,” recalled Rupp, the Phils’ third round pick from Texas, where teammate Chance Ruffin, son of former Phil Bruce Ruffin who has since retired, went in the first round. “Once the draft came around 4-5 teams called and said ‘We want to take you here or here’ and not one of them did.
“It was the second day of the draft and we were at practice getting ready for the Super Regionals. When they told me Phillies took me it was a surprise.
“Then I remember going back and looking at my phone and having all kinds of messages from everybody. So this week brings back some of those memories and the experience. A big part of these kids lives is gonna change. It’ll be the beginning of a dream not everybody gets to live out.”
Back home in St.. Louis, Howard kept hearing conflicting stories.
“I didn’t know what to believe,”admitted the Phils’ 2001 fifth round pick. “You hear you’re gonna be drafted sooner by some people — and then some say lower.
“So I just had to wait and see. I didn’t really do much to celebrate. I think we just had some friends over and then went out.”
Tomorrow night and continuing through Saturday hundreds of prospective major leaguers will be constantly checking their phones waiting for their names to be called. It’s an exhilarating, yet agonizing time to be sure.
At the same moment, it’s a time they’ll be certain to never forget.