Monday, May 12, 2008

Dodgeville pitcher gets pro attention

In just a matter of weeks, Dodgeville pitching phenom Danny Sullivan will be transitioning from high school baseball to facing some of the best adult amateur players in the area in the Home Talent League.

That’s merely a hop compared to the quantum leap he could be making if he gets selected in Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft. Sullivan is being courted by several MLB teams, and it’s possible he could be a mid-round draft choice when the draft gets underway on June 5th.

“Right now I’ve been talking to some pro scouts, and they’ve been coming to a couple games,” said Sullivan. “The draft is in early June, so I’m just waiting to see what happens there.”

The Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds are among the teams that have scouted Sullivan and could possibly draft him.

But even if the Brewers, just for example, draft Sullivan, it doesn’t mean he’ll be sitting in the dugout next to Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun anytime soon.

It’s not quite as simple as that. The baseball draft doesn’t exactly resemble that of the more popular drafts for the NFL or the NBA.

The players who get drafted in the NFL are superstars well before they get to the professional game. They’ve made a name for themselves playing college football. And football has a rule where athletes have to be at least three years out of high school before they get drafted.

In the past, teams in the NBA were allowed to draft kids just out of high school. Now they have to be at least one year removed. And with only two rounds in the NBA draft, only about 60 some players get drafted at all.

Baseball is a different beast altogether. First of all, there are 50 rounds. It’s a necessity that teams stock their multiple minor league farm teams with good, young talent. Even relatively obscure high school players who aren’t well known outside their conference get drafted with regularity.

But if a player like Sullivan gets drafted, there’s no guarantee he’s going to sign a contract with any team that drafts him.

Only if he gets an offer he can’t refuse, will Sullivan sign on with a Major League team. In fact, Danny has a backup plan.

“He definitely is going to go to Hill College and play,” explains father Bob Sullivan.

Hill College is a two year junior college located in Texas, where Danny plans to matriculate this fall. And that suits him just fine.

In both football and basketball, junior college is seen as a place where maybe an athlete can’t cut it at the Division I level, but that’s not the case with baseball.

At a four year institution, a player might be asked to sit the bench while he develops in an effort to contribute his junior and senior years. At a two year school, an athlete will play right away. There’s no time to wait.

“The coach is the main reason I’m going there,” said Danny. “His philosophy is to gain three to five miles per hour within your first year. And down south, there’s the University of Texas, there’s Baylor, there’s Texas Tech. You’ve got your big schools, and a lot of scouts are down in Texas. There’s areas where the Yankees come and watch you, and big time teams come and watch you.”

Danny estimates he’s already throwing somewhere in the range of an 89 to 91 mph fastball. Add three to five mph to that, and his arm will be major league ready.

If Danny does happen to get drafted, he may decline the opportunity in hopes that he will be an even higher draft choice in the future. In baseball, it’s not uncommon to be drafted two years in a row.

Players enrolled in a two year college can be drafted in either their first or second year, while players enrolled in four year schools can’t be drafted until after their junior year. That’s just another reason Danny and his family has made the choices they’ve made.

In the meantime, Danny will be focusing on finishing his senior year of high school in both the classroom and on the ball diamond. The Home Talent League is on the horizon this summer, and the unknown is beyond that.

“I’m very excited to see what’s going to happen,” said Danny.

This weekend’s Home Talent League road trip: Utica at Stoughton on Friday May 16 at 7:00 for the Norwegian Syttende Mai Festival

Photo credit: Brian Carriveau

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