By Jeffery Armstrong
Major League Baseball's 2004 First-Year Player Draft starts Monday, June 7 and several high school and collegiate players will be selected to start careers in professional baseball.
Former Henry County High pitcher Michael Rozier will be in an enviable position on Monday. The 6-foot-5 lefty could either be drafted as high as the first couple of rounds by a major league team (where he should receive a nice signing bonus) or he might be drafted in the later rounds. If the pick and any signing bonus isn't to his liking, Rozier can enroll as a student-athlete at the University of North Carolina, playing both football and baseball.
"One thing I told Mike and his family is that Mike not only has options, he has a lot of good options," said Henry County head baseball coach Chuck Campbell. "Whatever they choose, it should work out for him."
Rozier is highly-regarded on the draft boards, but Campbell said that it's not set in stone that he'll be drafted with a high pick.
"I've gone through several of these drafts and let me tell you, it's a crazy process. There's a lot of wheeling and dealing that goes on," Campbell said. "It basically comes down to ?signability'. The scouting directors aren't going to use a high pick if they are not pretty confident that a kid will sign."
Campbell doesn't know what his star pitcher will do, but he said there are pros and cons to turning pro or playing collegiate athletics.
"There are certain amounts of money that are hard to turn down, but the minor league life can be a hard life, especially for an 18-year-old away from home for the first time," Campbell said. "The college life can be fun and you have a bit more freedom and some structure from the coaches on campus."
Campbell did mention a young pitcher like Rozier has a good chance of playing for years to come if he's drafted into the majors. Pro teams try to save their young arms for the future.
"The Atlanta Braves have a 95-pitch limit for young pitchers in all their minor league clubs," said Campbell. "In college, teams trying to go far in the playoffs may be guilty of overusing their star pitcher."
Campbell said Rozier's recruiting process was the longest he's ever seen as a coach, without a doubt. Several major league scouts covered Rozier's every pitch during his senior year and he was constantly photographed for magazine covers and the like. While all this attention may have exhausted some athletes, it didn't seem to bother Rozier. It helped that Rozier's father Mike, head football coach at Henry County High, talked to all scouts and agents before they could even think about talking to his son.
"Mike's been kind of quiet through all this and that's probably because of his dad," Campbell said. "He probably wearied of all the photo shoots, but he kept a good attitude about it."
Rozier's teammates were positive about all the attention he received, especially this past year, Campbell said. He said some other players may have gotten the attention of scouts and some will know how to handle the pressure when the spotlight falls on them in the future.
Rozier won't be the only Warhawk to monitor Monday's draft on the Internet. Former pitcher Jason Laird is featured on the draft board and Campbell believes Laird could be part of the "draft and follow" process, where he will be drafted and that team will watch him pitch at Coastal Community College (in Florida) to see if it will sign him.