Gators Won't Let MLB Draft Cloud Postseason

The first round of Florida's run at the College World Series is clouded with expectation of what could happen in Monday's MLB Draft. The players and coaches don't expect it to steal the team's focus from the Gainesville Regional, but the Gators have plenty of players who will be highly drafted on Monday. The goal is to focus on what happens at McKethan Stadium this weekend.

"I'm not even going to discuss the draft (with the players)," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "It has nothing to do with this team this weekend, and I fully trust our players that they're fully focused on the task at hands. That's worrying about Bethune-Cookman on Friday night. I don't see it as a problem at all."

Draft projections and mock drafts are continuing to circulate as the start of the Gainesville Regional looms. The timing isn't new to college baseball, and it hasn't changed Florida's approach in recent years.

Under O'Sullivan, the Gators are 12-0 when hosting Regionals over the last four years with the draft happening shortly after in those years, too.

Those were different. The Florida program hasn't gone into a draft with as many players expected to be high selection. There aren't many teams in college baseball that ever have.

"We're just enjoying every day," Florida shortstop Nolan Fontana said. "We're not really thinking about the future—just enjoying playing together and trying to get back to Omaha."

The first Florida player selected is expected to be catcher Mike Zunino, who will likely be off the board after the top five picks. Brian Johnson is also gaining interest late in the first round.

The supplemental and early rounds will see plenty of Gators off the board. Fontana, Austin Maddox, Hudson Randall, Steven Rodriguez and Preston Tucker could all be off the board by the end of the third round.

"We don't really try to think about it," said Randall, sporting his postseason mustache. You're going to go where you're going to go, and whatever happens is what's going to happen. I'm excited about it, but the time hasn't come yet, so I'm not really thinking about it."

Instead of thinking about the draft or having an impressive final performance in front of scouts before the draft, O'Sullivan wants his order players to lead. The veteran players have been through tough situations throughout their careers and put together back-to-back College World Series appearances. Their experience is important as the Gators start postseason play.

"I hope the experience that the older players have can help the younger players," O'Sullivan said. "It really comes down to one thing—playing good baseball.

"It's (the veterans') team. At this point, the players have to play. You'd like to think as a coach that you have a lot to do with the outcome of the games, but at this part of the season, you don't."

The high number of players that will be drafted early is also important for the program. The Gators will likely see the roster empty out after this season, but it's important for O'Sullivan and the Florida coaching staff to show high school players how much they can improve in Gainesville.

"It speaks good things for the program and the coaches, knowing that kids can come here and get picked up and continue on in their careers," Randall said. "It's not always about how high you go in the draft. It's about the opportunity and coming to a great college with a great group of guys while trying to win our first national championship."


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