June 22, 2017
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
There’s a lot of waiting in baseball — waiting for the right pitch to hit, waiting for the right moment to throw your out-pitch — but the most agonizing wait for third baseman Trevor Craport, center fielder Ryan Peurifoy and closer Zac Ryan came early last week, when Major League Baseball held its annual First-Year Player Draft.
But good things come to those who wait and good things came for Craport, Peurifoy and Ryan, on Wednesday, June 14, when they were all selected, Craport by the Baltimore Orioles in the 11th round (No. 338 overall), Ryan by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 23rd round (685th) and Peurifoy by the Pittsburgh Pirates in Round 38 (No. 1138th). It was the 37th straight year a Yellow Jacket was chosen and the 17th straight that more than one went to the pros. That doesn’t even include signees Oscar Serratos (Cleveland), Colin Hall (Colorado) and Baron Radcliff (Atlanta).
Waiting wasn’t easy — it never is — with the Jackets preferring to be around family and friends to help relieve the tension.
“I was in my house with my mom and dad,” said Craport, a Norcross native. “During the Draft I was just watching TV and listening to the online cast waiting for my name to be called. It was awesome watching Zac and ‘Peur’ get drafted! Getting to play with those guys for three years was a lot of fun and they both deserved the opportunity they were given to play at the next level.”
Waiting to hear that he’d get that opportunity tried Peurifoy’s patience.
“It was pretty stressful and very stress-relieving once it actually happened,” said the Peachtree City native who spent Wednesday with his girlfriend at a friend’s house — among other places. “I’d been through two Drafts before this one, so I knew how hard it was just to get drafted because I didn’t get drafted in the first two. It was very discouraging thinking, ‘There’s a thousand-something picks that come out of this Draft, yet making it in that top thousand seems to be very hard.’
“I’d been expecting to hear my name. Then the third day comes around and I didn’t get a phone call all day,” he added. “I was trying to distract myself throughout the day by going and doing activities like bowling, down here in Peachtree City we have golf carts so I was going on golf cart rides. Finally, I’m just quitting on the whole idea, then the 38th round comes around, and I get a call. ‘You still good to sign?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, man. Let’s go.’ Then he’s like, ‘Alright, the Pirates are going to take you next pick.’ I was so excited to hear my name called at the end of the day.”
Similarly, Ryan was trying to get a lead on when he might be called.
“I was talking to a couple of different teams throughout the Draft but I was getting too anxious, so I stopped following the Draft,” he said, with a laugh. “When I DID get drafted I didn’t even know it at the time. I didn’t get a call (from my agent) to tell me they were taking me next pick or anything. He called and said, ‘Congratulations. You’re on the board.’ So it was really a shock.”
“I was actually at my house in Atlanta with my roommate and (Jacket rising senior pitcher) Jared Datoc came over,” Ryan, added. “I wanted to come back and get everything that I had that I knew that I would need or had to take out here if I needed to have a quick turnaround.”
Preparing for a quick turnaround would prove prophetic, but not even Ryan could have guessed HOW quick.
“It was a little more crazy than I expected,” he admitted. “It was around 3:00 p.m. when I got my phone call. Then they called back around 5:45 p.m. and told me that they needed me to be on a plane the next morning to come out to Utah. So I had to fly out to Dallas and connect and come up to Salt Lake City with some of the other draftees. We’re in Orem, Utah. That’s where I am for now.”
But the craziness is just beginning for Ryan, as he begins play with the Orem Owlz of the Pioneer League (Advanced Rookie Ball, short-season).
“We have 76 games and three off-days in the next couple of months,” he said. “I kind of expected that because I played in the Northwoods League my freshman year and that’s the same exact way. So I’ve done that before but it’s a lot more hectic than I expected.”
Craport, who credited Matt Gonzalez (sixth-round pick of Atlanta in ‘16) and Connor Justus (Angels, fifth round, ‘16) for advice, headed north to Maryland to begin his rookie adventure in the New York-Penn League.
“The next step is to finalize all of the paperwork and get activated so that I can start playing for the Aberdeen IronBirds,” Craport said. “I know that almost all of their (Orioles) minor league affiliates are in Maryland and that there are Yellow Jackets in their system already (including pitcher Matthew Grimes who is at Double-A Bowie).”
Peurifoy isn’t sure where he’ll start but has an idea, thanks to former Georgia Tech teammate, catcher Arden Pabst, who was taken by the Pirates in the 12th round of last year’s draft (Pabst is playing with the West Virginia Power of the South Atlantic League (Class-A)).
“There are two teams I could potentially play for,” Peurifoy said. “Arden said his first thought was Morgantown, West Virginia. That’s short-season, A-Ball (the New York-Penn League). There’s also the Rookie Ball team, in Bristol, Virginia.
“Arden kind of explained to me what to prepare for, what to bring and what attitude and mentality I will expect to have going up there,” he added. “So it’s good to be back playing ball. I’m ready to get back into that routine of wake up, work out, go to the field, play some baseball and just enjoy it.”
One added benefit for Peurifoy, who would see Aberdeen and Craport if he starts with the West Virginia Black Bears, is that he won’t have to change uniform colors.
“I’m glad we’re staying with the yellow and black,” he said. “I don’t think I’d have been very good at having to wear something else, red or maybe even purple.”
Being comfortable in how you play once the uniform is on, regardless of color, will be the key to advancing.
“I’ve talked to Connor Justus and he told me to just trust myself, stay with what I do,” Ryan said. “As long as I trust myself I should be pretty successful. We have a couple of guys down from Double-A and one from Triple-A. They’ve actually given me some advice too. It was kind of along the same lines — ‘You were good enough to get drafted. Don’t try to do anything more than you have to. Just trust your stuff and go out and hit your spots. As long as you keep the ball down and work corners you’ll be successful.’”
Ryan and Peurifoy already have advice for future Yellow Jackets preparing for the Draft and beyond.
“Stay optimistic about everything,” Ryan said. “I went through a little hard times my junior year but I didn’t get down on myself. I bounced back and scouts saw that too. They wanted to see resilience. That’s a lot of what this game is because you’re going to have bad games. As far as the Draft and being ready for everything, just stick to your normal routine. Remember that all the hard stuff comes before the game and the game is the easy part.”
“Just getting that foot in the door, getting drafted is the key. Once you get that, all you have to do is go out and prove yourself and play your game to the best of your ability and have fun because now you’ve got the chance,” said Peurifoy. “My junior year wasn’t very good and I talked to some scouts about what I needed to improve coming into my senior year. They told me get my average up and increase my power numbers, as in home runs. So I really tried to focus on getting on a good practice plan on working on getting hits and not striking out as much. That was probably big for the scouts to see and it’s also big for me, momentum-wise, going into this process now. I had that confidence going into the Draft and going into Rookie Ball I hope I can continue that level of play.”
Craport is excited to see how he and his fellow Jackets progress.
“I will definitely be keeping up with how they’re doing and hope they continue to do well,” he said.