ANAHEIM -- With the Major League Baseball draft in the coming days, you can look to your closest Major League team to see how important every selection is. From the 12 first round picks, to eight who didn't hear their name called until after the 10th round, and even a pair who never heard their name, the Los Angeles Angels 40-man roster is full of diversity when it comes to draft selections.
For a select few, the first day of the draft is one of the best of their lives, surrounded by family and friends, watching MLB Network waiting for their name to show up on the screen and erupt in celebration.
"It was awesome, it was like a dream come true when it finally happened," said Angels third baseman and former first round pick, Kaleb Cowart.
For others, the wait is a little longer, taking in phone calls from scouting directors asking about what they'd sign for, if they'd sign, and other items. Such was the case in 1999, when a community college hitter had the Mets reach out in the ninth and Red Sox call in the 10th, but wasn't selected until the 13th round, by the St. Louis Cardinals.
"I was shocked to tell you the truth," said potential future Hall of Famer, Albert Pujols. "[The Red Sox and Mets] didn't want to pay for my school, and as you know this game is not going to take to you but the school is. Now that I look back, I'm thankful because maybe I would've been drafted and any other organization I wouldn't have been moved along as quick as I did."
After being drafted, players sign and then begin their new job as a professional baseball player. Waking up at the crack of dawn to ride on a bus for eight hours, playing in parks with only a few hundred fans, and making less than minimum wage outside of your signing bonus. Not exactly an ideal dream, but still, you're a professional baseball player.
"Despite of the round you go to, the reality is you still have to get yourself in a position where you try and make it to the big leagues," Pujols said. "As soon as you turn pro, it's not about you. It's about the organization that you represent."
The draft goes 40 rounds, and roughly 1,200 players are selected from the high school and college ranks to become professionals. That leaves many without ever hearing their names, and few routes left in what they believed would be their career. It's not the end though, as some still sign, without ever being drafted. Though they aren't expected to become future stars, or even Major Leaguer players, some rise above draft rankings and become special stories and investments for the teams who took the risk of signing them.
"If anything the first few days after the draft, it was disappointing," said Angels starter, Matt Shoemaker, who was signed as an undrafted free agent. "Sad was a good word to be used. You're told some things and they didn't happen for whatever reason, it wasn't in God's timing."
Shoemaker beat the odds and became a runner up for Rookie of the Year, and a regular in the Angels' Major League rotation. Pujols, a 13th round pick, is now considered one of the best hitters in the history of the sport. Every pick matters on draft day.
"Everybody has their own thinking," said Pujols. "The guys who go in the first or last round, every guys mentality is to make it to the big leagues."
"You could definitely see differences between drafted guys and non-drafted guys," said Shoemaker. "At the same time, if you worked hard and did what you needed to do you keep doing fine."
Regardless of the round, stay true to who you are. It's a simple life lesson - don't change because of money or status. Becoming a Major League talent isn't easy, regardless of if you're a first round pick, 13th round pick, or not even drafted. Go through the bus rides, the long flights, the nights with family where you ponder if it's all worth it, and eventually, you may become a future star.