WACO — The McLennan Highlanders thought they would be punching their ticket to Grand Junction, for the World Series, on Tuesday, instead their field sat empty as it had since their season stopped in early March.
“Today was supposed to be the championship game of our Region Tournament,” Head Baseball coach Mitch Thompson said. “Today’s the day that we were supposed to punch our ticket to Grand Junction that’s a hard thing to swallow.”
With those dreams dashed it’s time for Thompson and the Highlanders to get to work preparing for next year and with all of the changes, there is plenty of work to be done. First off will be re-evaluating their current roster and how guys plans have changed based on the MLB Draft going from 40 rounds to just five.
“We have several of our guys that signed division one, and the thing is the five round draft is not just affecting our guys opportunities it’s affecting our guys opportunities that their next school,” Thompson said. “Because when the division one schools recruit players, they’re basing it upon having a need, well, their needs change because their guy may not be leaving now. So, the opportunity that our guys signed with, at that point, may not be the same opportunity that is there right now.”
Thompson a former a baseball-lifer who served as not only a baseball coach but spent a season as an Area scouting supervisor for the Kansas City Royals and he does not like to see the draft being cut down like it is.
“Instead of having four or five six guys that can get drafted now maybe we’ll have one or two [From McLennan],” he said. “It just limits the opportunity so I’m sad to see it. I don’t know there’s the best thing for baseball but they didn’t call me.[He said with a smile]”
With the changes to the draft that means there will be a lot of movement in amateur baseball and they have to be ready for the player movement that will happen at four-year and division-one universities.
“The division one players that are going to be leaving and transferring — a lot of that hasn’t even happened yet it’s going to be happening closer to the draft day in June, but even up to July 1,” he said. “At that point in time, there’s going to be a pretty big group of players that are looking for a new home for next year.”
One positive side effect of these changes will be the fact that some pretty talented players could elect to forgo pro baseball for a year and end up in junior college where they can try their hand at the pros again next year when the draft goes to a 20-round format.
“The division one schools are all facing roster crunches,” Thompson said. “And there may be some players who signed division-one that are highly touted kids out of high school, who really wanted to sign professionally but may not get the chance now, since it’s a five round draft and ended up calling and saying hey you know, we want to go to the junior college where we’re eligible for the draft again next year.”
Thompson and his coaches can resume in-person recruiting this weekend when these wheels will all be set in motion. The first challenge though will be finding people actually playing baseball.
“Whose playing where,” Thompson said with a laugh. “If we can find a game — maybe it’s 12 year olds or something like that — we’re gonna go see that sucker because we’re excited about going out again.”