Two current LSU players got the call from Major League Baseball during the annual draft Tuesday, as well as player who was expected to be with the Tigers in the fall.
One was senior Austin Nola, whose career will end whenever LSU’s postseason run does.
From all indications, the other two players will accept contract offers from the teams that drafted them as well.
Nola was taken in the fifth round by Miami, closer Nick Goody went in the sixth round to the New York Yankees and former Evangel Christian outfielder Hayden Jennings was taken a few picks before Goody by the Washington Nationals.
For Nola, coming back for his senior season improved his draft stock by 26 rounds after he was picked by Toronto in the 31st round in 2011.
As the anchor of the Tigers’ talented infield, Nola is hitting .313 with 47 runs, a team-high 16 doubles and 42 walks, 4 home runs and 42 RBIs.
With LSU’s Tuesday practice underway, Nola got word of his draft spot and his teammates immediately mobbed him.
The No. 1-ranked Tigers (46-16) tangle with 16th-ranked Stony Brook (50-12) in a best-of-three Super Regional starting at 11 a.m. Monday at Alex Box Stadium.
“It’s an honor to be drafted and be a part of professional baseball,” Nola said. “I told (Miami) ‘Hey I’m going to focus on the college baseball season and I’m trying to get to Omaha.’ That’s my only goal right now.”
By going in the fifth round, Nola is the first LSU senior to go that high since Louis Coleman went in the same round in 2009.
That’s a rarity in the draft because seniors have and negotiating power because they don’t have returning to school as leverage.
“It tells a lot about the organization,” Nola said. “They treated me unbelievably for a senior and that’s rare.”
A big key to Miami picking Nola might be due to how much better he has played as a senior.
Similarly to Coleman, Nola built up plenty of credibility for three seasons and saved his best season for the last. He has committed only five errors in 240 chances this spring, a .979 fielding clip,
“I feel I’m more mature,” he said. “I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs. I’ve been able to feel better out there.
“This is the best experience here, to be a part of LSU and a great tradition and program.”
Goody won’t have the long-term experience Nola had, considering that this season was his first, and from all indications, his last in a Tigers uniform.
The hard-throwing right-hander spent his first two college seasons at the junior-college level, arriving at State College of Florida as a shortstop and spending last year as a starting pitcher.
He had a strong enough sophomore campaign (6-2, 1.29 ERA) for the Yankees to pick him in the 22nd round last June. This season after making the conversion to closing, he has been a huge part of LSU’s success with 11 saves in 14 chances, a 2.51 ERA and 45-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 32.1 innings.
The fact that an organization – especially one with the prestige of the Yankees – picked Goody twice is a tell-tale sign.
Goody said he strongly considered signing with New York last season, but a mid-summer meeting with then new LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn swayed him to head to Baton Rouge.
“They told me they’d keep watching and they kept their word,” Goody said. “I just wasn’t ready to go last year.
"When you get drafted, you’re on cloud 9 and you think ‘Wow all this hard work really does pay off.’
“Last year, Coach AD flew up to Minnesota and talked to me a little bit and after that I realized I wasn’t ready for pro ball – to mentally and physically be away from my family yet.”
Now, with a season in the SEC under his belt, Goody is ready for the next challenge and he will, in all likelihood, sign with the Yankees before the July 13 deadline.
But along with his teammates, Goody has business to tend to first.
“Coming to LSU has made me more physically prepared and more mentally prepared,” Goody said. “I’ve been able to come here and pitch against the best competition in the nation. Every guy in this league can hit or pitch, so being able to come here and close definitely gives you enough confidence to go on to the next level.
“We still have a Super Regional to worry about, though, and that’s all I’m focused on.”
Jennings’ focus quickly shifted to pro ball Tuesday when he was picked earlier than most prognostications.
In a story on the Shreveport Times Web site, Jennings said he hasn’t signed yet but intends to later this week.
“They will fly in later this week and we'll go over the contract,” said Jennings, who told Times reporter Jason Pugh that he agreed to sign when the Nationals called him between the fifth and sixth rounds of the draft.
Jennings was the Class 2A Most Outstanding Player after he batted .446 (50-for-112) with 46 runs, 7 doubles, 4 triples, 13 home runs, 35 RBIs and 25 steals to help lead the Eagles to the state semifinals.