Early Call Surprises, Pleases Easley

At least Edward Easley had some advance warning. Otherwise the call would have completely caught the Mississippi State catcher off his guard. "The pick before me, the area scout called and told me I was going to be a Diamondback," Easley said. "It's probably the best news of my life."

The news was that Arizona of the National League had selected Easley with the 61st pick of the supplemental draft. Earlier Thursday afternoon, at Mississippi State's practice session, Easley told reporters that had no expectations of being selected on the first day of the Major League draft since there were only five regular rounds.

But around 5:00 while dressing for the Starkville Regional tournament dinner, the phone rang with The Call. "I wasn't expecting being that high," Easley said. "An advisor I've been working with since I was a senior in high school kind of gave me some expectations last night, anywhere from second to third. But first-round supplemental pick was definitely a surprise."

And a very profitable one as supplemental picks generally are in far better negotiating position with clubs. As a third-year junior Easley already had a strong case as one of the country's best backstops, a finalist for the national Johnny Bench Award and winner of the Ferriss Trophy given to the top college player in Mississippi. He was first-team All-Southeastern Conference, hitting .367 for the season to-date with a team-best 12 home runs and 61 RBI. Easley has also started all 56 games at catcher.

"I had four or five teams on me the most," Easley said. "The Diamondbacks had two picks in front of me at nine and fifty. They told me they were interested and it happened."

Without saying so directly, every comment indicates Easley does intend to turn professional after three college seasons. He will leave the negotiations to his advisor, while he takes care of more immediate business. "Now I have a lot of relief, the stress is off my back and I can focus on getting to Omaha."

Easley was not drafted out of Olive Branch High School, which was no reflection on what the pros thought of him even then. "I told the scouts I was going to college," he said, and the clubs listened. "Coach (Ron) Polk helped me make probably the best decision of my life, to come to Mississippi State. It helped me mature and get better at the game, and I really appreciate everything he has done. It looks like everything worked out."

And with the big uncertainties out of the way, Easley will be able to enjoy the rest of his last college season and, hopefully, get to play at Rosenblatt Stadium. That will mean helping the Bulldogs knock off Clemson in this weekend's Starkville Regional, no small task. But since everything else is working out so far, why not one more item?

"This is the most exciting week of my life."

Gene's Page Top Stories