While Alex Wimmers was the center of attention for a party of around 50 people on the first night of the Major League Baseball draft Monday, Ohio State teammate and longtime friend Dan Burkhart went another direction.
The junior catcher expected to go in the opening 12 rounds when the draft resumed Tuesday, but rather than sit by his computer and wait for results, Burkhart decided to go golfing with his father Jack and some friends.
“I didn’t do very well at all,” Burkhart said. “I couldn’t focus on anything. It was constantly in the back of my head the whole day.”
Finally, on his way home the course, Burkhart got the call. Well, actually his sister Jennifer did.
“It was 3 o’clock and I was getting a little worried,” he said. “I was driving home and my sister called my dad and said the San Francisco Giants drafted me. I guess they called my house. It was really exciting. It was a great relief. It was the happiest time ever. We all just started yelling.
“Right after that my phone blew up. I was like, ‘Holy cow, it’s amazing how fast word travels.' Just getting texts from everyone, it was great. Everyone was congratulating me.”
The Giants took Burkhart in the 10th round with the No. 318 overall choice. With that, the 5-11, 215-pounder hopes to enter the realm of professional ball despite retaining a year of eligibility at OSU.
“I’m thinking top 10 rounds, usually you pretty much have to go,” Burkhart said. “If anything, you don’t want to come back and break your arm or have a surgery and then you’re just done. I’ll probably more likely go ahead and play.”
Signing bonuses given to players in last year’s 10th round ranged from a low of $10,000 to into six figures. Burkhart also hopes to sign a deal that includes a provision the Giants will pay for the rest of his education at OSU upon the conclusion of his career.
Once negotiations are complete, Burkhart said expects to be assigned to the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes of the short-season, Single-A Northwest League.
“I’ve never even been to California in my life,” he said. “We’ll just see how it goes. I’m sure it’ll be fun. It’s a new chapter in my life.”
A three-year starter out of Cincinnati Moeller, Burkhart was the 2009 Big Ten Player of the Year after batting .354 with 10 homers and 62 RBI. In 2010, Burkhart finished with a .354 average with a single homer and 29 RBI while walking 40 times against 29 strikeouts, giving him a team-best .464 on-base percentage.
The other 2010 Ohio State player taken in the later rounds draft was outfielder Zach Hurley. The senior completed his career with a standout season, leading the Buckeyes with a .385 average and 19 doubles while posting seven homers, 39 RBI and six steals.
A native of Springboro, Ohio, Hurley was taken 875th overall in the 29th round by the Oakland Athletics. A year ago, he was chosen in the 45th round by Florida.
Hurley has often spoken of how he’s reached this level through hard work, but retiring head coach Bob Todd said before the draft that professional teams had noticed his pupil's blend of speed, athleticism and a bat that can hit for both power and average.
“Other people see his talents,” Todd said of the Buckeyes’ 2010 co-captain. “You don’t necessarily have to have one super tool, but if you have four or five of them and all of them give you and your teammates a chance to win games, that’s just as valuable.”
Hurley (6-0, 205) was unavailable to talk to BSB having left Ohio on Thursday to join up with the Athletics’ organization.
Wimmers Relaxed Now
Burkhart’s Moeller and OSU teammate Alex Wimmers, who was chosen 21st overall by the Minnesota Twins, bore a look of relaxation Thursday compared to the tense expression he sported while waiting for the call during the first round.
“It’s been a huge relief,” he said. “For how hard you’ve worked your whole career, for it to finally pay off is a great feeling.”
He said the Twins have sent him a contract to look over but isn’t sure if he will sign soon and report for minor league duty or negotiate during the coming weeks. Last year’s Minnesota first-round pick, pitcher Kyle Gibson, waited until the last hours of the signing period in August before inking a contract worth more than $1.8 million.
“I’ve never had a summer off to relax and just be a person,” he said. “But we’ll see what happens. If I get a week off, two weeks off, a month off, who knows what it’s going to be. I’m going to get myself healthy and ready to start throwing again.”
Monday night, Wimmers said the hamstring injury that cost him three starts in May had healed. He finished his junior year with a 9-0 record and 1.60 ERA.
After leading Ohio State in home runs for the second straight year, senior center fielder Michael Stephens expected to hear his name called at some point in the 50-round draft.
Instead, 1,525 players came and went without the Victorville, Calif., native being chosen.
“I’m not going to lie, yesterday I was pretty shocked,” the normally jovial Stephens said. “I’m not going to sit here and say I wasn’t bummed. I was pretty ticked off. But it is what it is, and now I’ve come to a point where it’s like certain things work out in certain situations. If I have to take the longest route ever, this wouldn’t be a surprise to me. I’ve been like that my whole life. I’m just going to take everything positive and look forward to the future.”
Stephens, who said he heard extensively from the Twins and Atlanta Braves before the draft, finished 2010 with a .360 average, 10 homers and 43 RBI. Last year, he batted .346 with 14 HR, 63 RBI, 10 doubles, five triples and 10 stolen bases.
Assuming a free-agent offer doesn’t come in the coming days, Stephens plans to return home to California after graduating from OSU on Sunday in order to try to resume his baseball career.
“What my agent would like me to do is actually head back to California and I will go to an MLB complex and try to sign as a free agent,” he said. “I guess I have to do all these different tryouts, that sort of thing, and then I have to play on a summer ball team.”
That squad would be the MLB Academy Barons, headquartered at the Urban Youth Academy in Los Angeles. The Barons take part in the California Collegiate League.
“Hopefully someone just notices me and understands my situation and is like, ‘Let’s just give this guy an opportunity,’ ” Stephens said.
Two Recruits Drafted
A pair of Ohio State recruits from Ohio high schools has been drafted as well.
Right-handed pitcher Josh Dezse went in the 28th round (865th overall) to the New York Yankees. The 6-4, 205-pounder attended high school at Powell (Ohio) Olentangy Liberty just northwest of Columbus. Though Ohio State has not released a list of letter of intent signees, The Buckeye Nine blog reported Dezse signed with OSU in November.
Also, right-handed pitcher Greg Greve was taken by San Francisco in the 45th round (1,368th overall). The 6-3, 200-pounder prepped at Walsh Jesuit in Cuyahoga Falls, leading his team to the state Division II final each of the past two years before suffering the loss in both title games.