When it comes time to make the announced jump from college to professional sports, most athletes like to have some sort of draft-day routine.
Most gather at their homes or a local restaurant with family and friends.
Many invite reporters to come along and spend plenty of time answering phone calls from prospective employers or well-wishing friends.
Joey O’Gara slept.
“I was just sleeping at my house,” said the right-hander, who was tapped by the Florida Marlins in the 31st round. “I’d just woken up and I was about to take a shower, and my phone rang.”
O’Gara said a regional scout for the Marlins had been in touch with him the day before regarding where Florida might take him. So he wasn’t all that surprised when the call came in, making him the sixth of seven IU Hoosiers picked in the 2009 Major League Baseball Draft.
The five taken in the first two days of the draft – Eric Arnett, Josh Phegley, Matt Bashore, Evan Crawford and Kipp Schutz – all either expressed their desire to sign contracts and begin their careers or have already signed (Arnett).
For O’Gara, he said, “It’s kind of up in the air.”
First, arguably the greatest leverage a college player has when negotiating a contract is the threat of walking away and going back to school.
Unlike all of his drafted teammates save Schutz, O’Gara is a redshirt sophomore in terms of NCAA eligibility. This means that though he has been out of high school for three years and thus eligible for the draft, the Cincinnati native could play at IU for two more years, meaning he could come back next year, finish a four-year degree and still have that extra year of eligibility as a bargaining tool.
Second, it stands to reason that O’Gara could easily improve his draft stock by returning for another year. He was something of an everything-man in the rotation this year, starting five games but appearing in 14 others.
With Bashore and Arnett unlikely to return, there will be two spots open in the weekend rotation, and O’Gara will almost certainly be a frontrunner to win one of them. That would give him a much better stage from which to showcase his talents, starting on a regular basis.
Additionally, O’Gara admitted he feels like he needs to put on some weight; the 6-foot-7 righty is listed at a slender 205 pounds. And he said he needs to work on an off-speed “out” pitch.
For now, the Marlins have told O’Gara they are taking what’s called a “draft-and-follow” approach, meaning they drafted him and will monitor his performance in summer ball and make a decision based upon that. Teams have until Aug. 15 to sign their draft picks.
“They’ll be following me through the summer. I don’t know how long,” O’Gara said. “I’m kind of just going to wait and see how things unfold.”
O’Gara said he’s heard advice both ways – come back to school or go pro.
“I think it’s gonna depend on, kind of, how much they offer me,” he said. “Coming back next year is definitely an option.”