Corley was the 59th overall selection Tuesday and the fifth pick of the second round. He was also the first Mississippi collegiate prospect taken, which surprised him just as much as how highly his name was called.
Not that Corley literally heard his name on MLB's live reporting of Tuesday's draft. He was not watching or listening, upon expert recommendations. "My advisor, Bo McKinnis (a former MSU manager and professional agent), earlier today told me not to listen to it. Paul Maholm did the same thing. He said just relax, hang out. I was laying in bed and watching TV."
Well, not really that either, as Corley can't recall what was on the screen. "I was just laying there, praying!" he admitted. But he'd instructed fellow Bulldog outfielder Jeff Butts to track the draft for him with specific instructions. "I'd told Jeff Butts to call me when (Stephen) Head got drafted." And why use the first baseman/pitcher from rival Mississippi as a benchmark? "Because he's one of my buddies, and he uses Bo, too. I figured he'd go before me and wanted to know."
Butts did ring in a time or two with news of other SEC players tabbed through the first round. "Then he called back and I figured he was going to say Head. And he says "congrats." I was like, what? He said "congratulations, you just got drafted fifth pick in the second round. I literally started shaking. It was unbelievable."
And not just because Corley had beaten out a buddy in draft status. He was honestly expecting to be taken in the third round. This was the sort of surprise Corley could live with. "The second round was a huge shock, especially that early." Butts' call beat one from the Pirates' office, and they were all ahead of the Corley family who cheering the news in Louisville, Ky. "They were jumping through the ceiling, they put them on speaker-phone and I could hear them. They were watching, Mom, Dad, and my brothers."
What did not surprise Corley at all was who drafted him. He was fully expecting to get the call from Pittsburgh after being tracked and cross-checked all the 2005 season. "I know pretty much every scout they had saw me play, and there were two in Miami the first day when I hit the two home runs. Which pretty much sealed it. And Paul (a pitcher in the Pirates organization) met with them and helped me out a lit. So I pretty much knew."
Corely also knows that he will shortly be signing on with the National League franchise. His self-stated "95%" certainty of May is 100%-sure now in June after second-round selection.
"I'm going to take about two weeks off. We'll probably meet in a week at my house with a scout, I'm sure that's when the contract will be offered. So I'll probably leave in about two weeks to go play. We haven't talked about anything position-wise. I'm just trying to celebrate right now."
Pittsburgh scouts zeroed in on Corley after a stellar sophomore season when he hit 19 home runs, drove in 55 runs, and owned a .380 average over 59 games. His junior-year stats were not as impressive: a .316 average, five homers and 45 RBI with a .464 slugging percentage. Nor did Corley ever take to the mound this past season, after throwing late-relief his first two MSU years.
Fortunately the Pirate scouts studied the career body of work more than just what Corley did in '05. "They just said they loved me all-around, my speed, my arm, my power, everything. It's going to be a good situation. The draft is usually based on the five tools of a player. I guess I had a great year last year and showed those tools, this year was a little more down but it still worked out."
So did Corley's college career. The '05 regular season didn't play out as well as expected for the team's co-captain and preseason All-American. But the way Mississippi State ended the campaign, by winning the SEC Tournament and going 2-2 in the Coral Gables Regional, means Corley can leave campus satisfied.
"It was awesome. I'm excited to leave but really I'm not, I've got such a good family down here now. It's going to be hard not putting on the Maroon again, but I'm ready to move to the next level."
His moving leaves at least one void in the 2006 lineup, in rightfield, and with both Butts and Joseph Hunter draft-eligible juniors there will likely be more. "Hunter said he is going to leave, probably," Corley noted. "Butts doesn't know yet. But they're always going to be good, Coach (Tommy) Raffo does a great job out there and they have some good ones coming in. I'd see Matt Richardson, Mitch Moreland, Jeff Flagg, Brian LaNinfa; they've got the (Andy) Rice kid coming in. Centerfield would probably be open if Hunter and Butts leave, but it looks good."
Speaking of looking good, now Corley has to change hues for the next level. He hopes Pirate black-and-gold tones are just as tasteful as Maroon-and-White. Oh, and about that cap…
"Hopefully they'll send me one!"