Diamond dreams coming true?
Like millions of boys across the Western Hemisphere, Wil Crowe decided at an early age that he wanted to be a Major League baseball player.
But unlike the vast majority of those boys, Crowe has worked to build the skill-set to do so.
The 18-year-old pitcher from the state champion Pigeon Forge Tigers is a likely pick in this week’s Major League Baseball First-year Player Draft, which begins tonight at 6 p.m.
“I’ll just be honored (wherever I’m chosen),” Crowe said Wednesday. “If it’s the first pick of the draft or the 1,200th — I think that’s how far it goes — I’m just going to be happy.
“To know that my dreams are becoming a reality, whether I (get drafted) Friday or Saturday or go on to South Carolina, I’ll just know that everything I’ve done is paying off. It’ll just be an honor to get picked.”
The draft will be broadcast live on MLB.com.
Some analysts have Crowe listed as high as the first round, or the supplemental picks between rounds one and two.
Should Crowe last until the third round (some sites have him pegged as a 4th-5th rounder), the big righty’s selection won’t come until Friday. Rounds 3-10 begin at 12:30 p.m.
The Tigers’ all-state player said three teams he’s been in contact with, the Cincinnati Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks and Florida Marlins, have all indicated he could be a first-day pick.
“They’ve all said they’re highly considering me in the compensation round (right after the first round),” Crowe said. “They all have picks, and it’s (pick numbers) 34, 35 and 37.”
During the Tigers’ season, any time Crowe pitched MLB baseball scouts showed up in droves.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior said he talked to scouts from almost every Major League team, and some teams even brought in front office personnel to gauge the him.
Crowe had an incredible senior season at Pigeon Forge.
On the mound, he was an amazing 16-1 with 10 shutouts, four no-hitters and two perfect games. In 98 innings pitched, he surrendered just 37 hits and 14 walks while striking out 187 batters. Opposing hitters batted just .116 against him.
He was also great at the plate, where he compiled a slash line (average, on-base, slugging percentage) of .454/.557/.874. Crowe finished with a team-leading 12 home runs, and he also added 51 runs scored and 53 RBI.
His stellar play last season, combined with a great summer effort, was enough to elicit a scholarship offer from NCAA powerhouse South Carolina prior to this season, which Crowe accepted.
That was before the MLB scouts came calling and early-round draft possibilities came into play.
“It was crazy,” Crowe said upon learning of his possible high-round status. “We had no idea.
“(ESPN writer) Keith Law’s first top 50 prospects (was published), and I’m 42nd. My dad was just looking at the computer one day, saw it, was scrolling down and saw my name. He freaked out. He called coach Guinn.
“It was crazy. I didn’t get told until later that day. He told me and I couldn’t believe it. It just shows me that everything I’ve done is paying off.”
But that doesn’t mean Crowe is certain he’ll forgo his college experience to turn pro.
He said South Carolina head coach Chad Holbrook has been very open with him in the process.
“Whatever decision I make, he’s happy for me,” Crowe said. “He doesn’t me to sell myself short (if I’m drafted later) is what he’s told me. He wants me to make sure if it’s life-changing money (from an early-round selection) then take it, (but if it’s not) he doesn’t want me to go.
“If I get money that’s life-changing, then he understands. But if I don’t, he really wants me to come because he thinks I’ll double or triple that value in the next three years.”
While amateur players can’t retain agents, they are allowed advisors to guide them through the often-confusing process.
Crowe’s advisor is Darek Braunecker of Frontline Athlete Management, an organization that oversees some $700 million in athletic contracts for MLB stars such as A.J. Burnett, Cliff Lee and Jeff Samardzija.
Follow @jasonsdavispress on Twitter for updates on Crowe’s draft status Thursday and beyond, and follow the story in Friday and Saturday’s editions of The Mountain Press.