June 5th, 2012

Draft Diaries: The Beginning and the End

Major League Baseball holds their annual Amateur Draft from June 4 through the 6 this week, and we have decided to get a look from different angles on the Frisco RoughRiders. A very low percentage of draft picks ever reach the Major Leagues and those that do never take the exact same path to reach it. There will be 1,200 or so players drafted over the next three days and a large majority of them will likely never make it to Double-A, let alone the Big Leagues. Here are stories from those that have or have played roles in those that have.

On Monday night Major League Baseball held the first round and supplemental rounds of the 2012 amateur draft. From that point through Wednesday, the lives of approximately 1,200 players will be forever changed with the words “drafted by ________ in the ___ round”. Some will ultimately not sign, but hundreds of them will move onto their first opportunity at professional baseball. For some, just making it to professional baseball will be a dream come true. For others, it’s one step closer to their ultimate dream of making it to a major league stadium.

The dream that each player has does not become a reality overnight, however, and there are many paths to realizing the goal. Every player, whether it’s one in high school or college, has to have someone backing them both long before the draft process and during the draft process.

In the case of the Frisco RoughRiders, we have examples of both in the clubhouse alone.

When the Texas Rangers selected Steve Buechele in the 5th round of the 1982 draft, they probably had a good feeling that he could be a major league caliber player. But, they probably did not expect the pick to still be rewarding the organization 30 years down the road.

After spending three seasons in the minor leagues, Buechele made his debut on July 19th, 1985. He would become an 11 year major league veteran amassing 1,046 hits, 137 home runs, 547 RBI, and 501 runs over that time. In his third season as Frisco’s manager Steve Buechele has made an impact on the game both on the field as a player and on the field as a coach. He also has made an impact as a father.

“Well I think it’s…you’ll hear things. Every player no matter who they are unless they’re just a bona fide number one pick, I think will always hear something. You’ll go in the top three, the top seven, top ten, top fifteen, whatever it is, you know, and I think just to take everything with a grain of salt because you never know what’s going to happen on draft day,” Steve Buechele said about the difference of having gone through the draft process himself.

In the 2010 draft, the Texas Rangers selected Garrett Buechele out of the University of Oklahoma with their 18th round pick. After not signing and returning for another year, Garrett was taken by the San Francisco Giants in the 14th round of the 2011 draft at which point he signed.

“I think for us, you know, he went…one year he was drafted by the Rangers, it was kind of neat,” Buechele said when asked about the feeling of seeing his son getting drafted, “But he went back to school and then last year when he was drafted by the Giants our reaction was we were just happy that he was going to get a chance to play baseball which is what he’s always wanted to do.”

While the player can have the talent and the parent can help the son, baseball players would not be as easy to find without the help of the scout and coach. In Frisco, we have one person who has done both, in James Vilade.

During his career as a college baseball coach at the University of Dallas and UT-Tyler, James Vilade went 348-117 and helped over 50 players make it to professional baseball in twelve seasons as a college coach. Since then Vilade has worked as an area scout for the Florida Marlins and currently is a part-time scout for the Texas Rangers as well as an assistant hitting coach for the Frisco RoughRiders.

Asked about how it feels as a coach to see players make it: “It’s exciting. I mean from the standpoint of where I am now with player development and also scouting, it’s a unique position on its own but Monday night I was with Elvis Andrus at the Ballpark in Arlington. It’s nice to see guys make it. It really is so it’s nice to see guys accomplish their goals and our job is to develop guys and get them to Arlington. It’s rewarding when they do.”

Draft day for many baseball fans happens quickly and before you know it it’s over and you might not hear of 90% of the players ever again. For scouts, however, especially on the amateur side, the draft is a yearlong process, if not more.

The chain of command is long and winded as well. From the area scouts to the crosscheckers to national supervisors, the process of getting players recommended can be long and tedious. And heaven forbid a player has a bad day when the scout’s supervisor is there. But, once draft day comes along, the responsibility is no longer on the part of the area scout and now on those in charge of the draft.

“As far as my job, my job on actual draft day, my role really dwindles. It’s up the guys in the front office and the national guys that make the real big decisions so for us working in a certain area, the pressure is off us that day. It goes to the front office and those guys are all working hard and I know there’s hours of meetings and trying to make it the best draft possible,” Vilade said.

It can make for fascinating debates years down the road. Take for instance a very interesting tweet by former Houston Astro C.J. Nitkowski ( @CJNitkowski ):

“18th anniversary of me being taken 9th overall in the MLB draft. I often reminisce about how many people were fired over that decision.”

And that comes from somebody that appeared in 336 big league games.

Written By: Michael Damman

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