Reese Sharp got the call when he was at Roundtripper Sports Academy in Westfield, Indiana.
The third and final day of the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft was underway. Sharp was working out with a trainer. When he looked down at his ringing phone, he didn’t see a number from a city with a MLB team.
Instead his phone read, “Dad."
While Sharp was at Roundtripper, his Dad kept his eyes on the MLB Draft live tracker.
The San Francisco Giants held the ninth pick in the 28th round of the draft, 836th overall. “Reese Sharp” flashed onto the screen.
The 28th round was higher than Sharp thought he would be selected. He was anxious during his workout, but he certainly didn’t expect a call as early as he got one.
“I was pretty shocked at first,” Sharp said. “But then it sunk in, and it was really exciting.”
Sharp had the chance to live out his dream right in front of him. With just his signature, he could become a professional baseball player.
But Sharp said no.
The Noblesville, Indiana native won’t be leaving the state, at least not yet. Sharp turned down the contract offer from the Giants, instead choosing to join Head Coach Jeff Mercer and the IU baseball team in Bloomington this fall.
Over his high school career, Sharp saw a jump in velocity of his fastball, eclipsing 90 miles per hour on a consistent basis and reaching all the way up to 95. He also developed a curveball and a slider. It all helped him become one of the best high school pitchers in Indiana.
But in his senior year, Sharp didn't touch the field for the first time until June. In fact, Sharp's selection in the Draft came just four days after his first start of the year.
After a transfer at the end of his junior year from Noblesville High School to University High School, Sharp was required to sit out 365 days after his final game at Noblesville.
During his suspension, Sharp worked with University coaches on a throwing program. Each week Sharp threw a bullpen session, his pitch counts rising week by week until he was ready to throw 90 pitches. During the fall, Sharp played with the Giants' scout team. In fact, the Giants were the only team Sharp knew had high interest in him.
Sharp made his return to the field in the regional championship on June 1. He pitched six innings, allowing no runs while striking out 12.
In the state semifinals, Sharp struck out eight over 6.2 innings. Just one unearned run scored.
Sharp saved one of the best performances of his high school career for the state title game. Sharp threw a complete game and struck out 17 en route to the state crown.
In the midst of preparing for the state semifinals and championship game, as much as he tried to not worry about it during the playoff run, Sharp's decision loomed over him.
“It was difficult at times,” Sharp said. “In the end of the day, I just thought to myself, ‘I want to win these games first. After we win a state championship, I can focus on it a little later.”
After Sharp raised the trophy on Victory Field in Indianapolis with his team, he began to look at his options and make a choice about where his future would take him.
Sharp said he mostly talked about the decision with his family. His family didn’t want to sway him either way, saying it was his decision. They did help their son weigh the pros and cons of each option.
“If you go pro and don’t make it, then you have to go to school at an older age,” Sharp said of what he and his parents discussed. “Or you can go to college, get the school under your belt and then hope for another chance at the draft in a higher round and hopefully receive more money.”
Sharp began to lean toward choosing college. He committed to IU on May 10, 2017 and stuck with the program after a coaching change as Chris Lemonis left to take the head coaching job at Mississippi State University and Mercer filled the void.
College baseball teams are allotted a maximum of 11.7 scholarships to be divided up among the players. Sharp said scholarship money was a factor in his decision as well as the experience he can get in Bloomington.
“I want to have school paid for,” Sharp said. “In the end, I decided I don’t think I’m ready to play professionally. I want to develop myself and all my baseball skills. Hopefully get three years of school under my belt and then get drafted again.”
The first person Sharp told when he made his decision was the same person who relayed the news of his selection, his father.
“This is what I want to do, it feels right for me,” Sharp told his dad.
Sharp then made a phone call to Mercer.
“Let’s go get some championships,” Mercer said on the phone.
Sharp’s decision to come to college is part of a recent trend of top high school prospects turning down the draft right out of high school to attend school for three to four years instead. J.T. Ginn of Mississippi State and Kumar Rocker of Vanderbilt University both turned down offers in the 2018 MLB Draft, and both were immediately successful at the college level.
“I just feel like I can trust them that if I put in the work, they’re going to help me get to where I want to be,” Sharp said. “Whereas if you’re struggling in the minors, they’re not going to baby you and hold you’re hand, they’re just going to go on to the next guy.”
Sharp said that he felt a family aspect with Mercer, pitching coach Justin Parker and the rest of the IU program.
Sharp will join an IU pitching staff that lost all three weekend starters from the 2019 Big Ten champion group. Both Andrew Saalfrank and Tanner Gordon were selected in the sixth round of the 2019 MLB Draft, and both will forego their senior year after signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves respectively. Friday starter Pauly Milto graduated this spring and was also selected in the 23rd round by the Chicago White Sox.
In just one year at IU, Parker has had three pitchers drafted. He helped develop Andrew Saalfrank from an inconsistent relief pitcher to the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year in just one season. Sharp believes working with Parker will help him take the next step as Saalfrank and even Gordon have before him.
With all three spots needing to be filled, Sharp has a chance to make his mark right from the first weekend of the 2020 season.
“I’m hoping to see myself in the first, second or third rounds, but I’ll take whatever I can get,” Sharp said. “I’m willing to do it to get to the next level.”
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