Most amateur players have unique stories when they learn they have been drafted by a professional organization.
Terry Fuller was asleep on a Wednesday afternoon as his mom ran into his room with news that would change his life drastically.
“Terry, get up, you have the (St. Louis) Cardinals on the line,” Fuller recalled his mom saying. “That’s when and where I found out.”
The Cardinals took the 18-year old with their 15th round pick, 454th overall, during the concluding day of the MLB Draft - and that moment is something Fuller will remember for some time.
“I just see it as another blessing,” he said. “To go on and be able to move to another level to play ball, whether that was college or minor league baseball.”
Fuller, a two-sport standout at Griffin High School in Georgia, fell out of the top 10 rounds because of questions about his signability. Teams considered he would honor his football commitment to Auburn University or play baseball at Chipola College, a junior college powerhouse.
That didn’t stop Fuller from being fully convinced the Cardinals are the route to go as he views a longer career ahead in baseball.
“I had called my coach,” he said. “I didn’t even expect for the Cardinals to draft me. My coach was telling me they were one of the best organizations in the ballgame. That was one thing that excited me the most is their way of developing players. I think that is one of the strong key points that I needed.”
Fuller said he sat down and viewed baseball as a “20-year sport” that would allow him to avoid being “banged up and not having to end my career early because of an injury.”
With that, the outfielder expects to fly down to Jupiter, Florida soon to sign with St. Louis, before likely opening his professional career with the Gulf Coast League Cardinals.
Realizing his passion for the game
Fuller grew up as a typical kid from Georgia, rooting on the local Atlanta Braves, who play about 50 miles from where he makes his home in Griffin.
When asked after whom who he models his game, Fuller tabbed one of more elite modern-day players and a Hall of Famer.
Bryce Harper and Ken Griffey Jr.
That said, Fuller, who has been playing baseball since the tender age of three, didn’t realize his true passion for the game until his junior year coming up to his senior campaign, when he emerged as one of the better prep stars on the diamond in the state of Georgia.
“I was just always an athlete that could play,” Fuller said. “My coach took me under his wing and just showed me the game.”
He also attributed part of his decision to taking off a summer from football and playing with elite high school baseball prospects, who played year-round in warm-weather states as he gained more experience and knowledge.
“That’s when I started considering that this game is for me,” Fuller said.
Path to the Cardinals
Many publications say Fuller was likely to have heard his name called somewhere between the third and fifth round of Day 2 of the draft - had it not been for his signability questions.
Though his early selection did not occur, he said there were eight or nine other teams that had shown interest in him.
Fuller’s talents were first discovered by Cardinals area scout Charles Peterson, who is assigned to cover Georgia, South Carolina, and part of Florida for the club.
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound slugger is characterized by Baseball America as possessing plus-plus raw power and someone who can change a game with it. Peterson could likely see a potential middle-of-the-order thumper, which is in short supply in the Cardinals organization.
Fuller’s power potential raised eyebrows, especially when he beat Harper’s record with a 527 foot home run in a January showcase at Marlins Park in Miami.
“I was just going down there and showcasing my God-given talents,” Fuller said. “I wanted to go and break Bryce Harper’s record. I wanted to show the world I could break his record. It was a feeling I have never had in my life.”
Fuller followed that up with by hitting .625 in his senior season for the Grizzly Bears, including an .800 on-base percentage, 13 home runs and 40 RBI.
“He’s a really big guy, which is the first thing that catches your eye,” Griffin high school baseball coach Andrew Calhoun said. “He has incredible bat speed for a guy his size. Really good hand-eye coordination and a low of raw power. He can hit the ball to all fields. He is actually a better runner than people give him credit for (seven stolen bases during his senior year).
“I think he will do well at the next level.”
His power was so feared by the opposition at the amateur level that he was twice intentionally walked with the bases loaded.
“A guy his age being able to hit a ball that far (is what stands out),” Calhoun said. “He hit a lot of balls out at BP this year. Our fence is 405 (feet). We have one of the bigger fields for a high school team. There’s a row of pine trees about another 50 feet behind that and across the road, he was daily putting balls into there.
“I had to actually put a limit on him to how many home runs he could during BP because he was costing me a lot of money with balls. You don’t see kids hit the ball that far consistently. I think there’s really not a kid in this (draft) class that can really match that in terms of that raw power potential that he has."- Griffin High coach Andrew Calhoun
“He’s still going to grow and get bigger. He’s going to get stronger and faster. There’s no telling what he will be able to do with the ball by the time he’s 21, 22, or 23 after lifting weights for the next couple of years,” his coach concluded.
Cardinals scouting director Randy Flores only needed two words to say what he liked in the pick of Fuller and then went on repeat.
"So, what I would say is what we liked was the power, the power, the power and the power," Flores told the media.
Defense and makeup
According to reports out of St. Louis, Fuller is expected to begin his professional career as a corner outfielder.
He may eventually end up at first base because of his size. Scouts have given him below-average grades for his speed, but he is gifted with a good throwing arm.
Calhoun had the best athlete on his team patrolling center field.
“Terry does have some areas he can work on,” his coach said. “Overall range. He can get faster. He is an above-average for a guy his size, but he can still get a little faster. He has a very accurate arm, though. We clocked him at 91 (mph) from the outfield, but his arm is very accurate.
“That’s something he’s had all year. He has had a very accurate arm in every pre-draft workout we have been to. My guess would be that overall range could be worked on; his path to the ball. Some areas and stuff he needs to work on.
“From what I understand, they will play him in left field. I had him in center field, as he was the best athlete I had. Maybe that made it a little harder on him. As a left fielder, I see him being able to succeed there.”
When asked how he would self-evaluate his game in a scouting report, Fuller answered without hesitation.
“I would say I am a big, strong, and physical dude who values the game,” he said. “My arm is above-average. My speed is pretty good. It is pretty above-average, too, I would, just because of my size. You have guys my size, who just can’t run out a hit. I would say my hands are very fast. I have quick hands.
“When I am at bat, I can use all parts of the field to hit because I work the other way more than try to pull and hit 400 foot home runs just in case there is a situation in the game I need to go the other way. I think that is what most players do. That is one thing I work the most.
“I know I will have to work defensively as I continue to go forward. I will have to work on my defensive skills even more, which will take a little more time trying to perfect my game on the defensive side, so I look more polished.
“I plan to be the most hard-working player the St. Louis Cardinals have,” he concluded.
In terms of makeup, Fuller’s high school coach gave him a glowing review.
“He was without question the leader of our team vocally and non-vocally,” Calhoun said. “He was the first guy to show up to practice every day. He would come out early and hit in the cage before everybody got there. Last one to leave type-guy.
“Personality-wise, Terry is a big teddy bear, actually. People see him they think he is a big, scary guy considering he was a former football defensive-end and was crushing quarterbacks on Friday nights. He is actually a big teddy bear. That is something a lot of people don’t know about him. Very nice guy. He has people that just gravitate toward him.
“That is just his personality. Everybody wants to be around him, have fun, and hang out with him. The Cardinals not only got a good baseball player but a good person.”
Acclimating to pro ball
It is unknown when Fuller will officially sign, but given his lack of experience in baseball, he should spend the first couple of years in rookie ball and or a short-season team.
“He's young,” Flores told the media. “We're going to let him play. We're going to let him play for a long time. And then we're going to figure out the rest."
His high school baseball coach sees the day-to-day rigors of the pro game being the biggest adjustment ahead for Fuller.
“Probably the demand,” Calhoun said. “Even kids who go to college, they don’t realize, you try to tell them, and you try to prepare them as much as you can for the amount of workload they are about to have in terms of their practice time. I think that is the adjustment for all kids moving on to college or the professional level have to make.
“Even college to professional. Having to practice three and a half to four hours versus two to two and a half or having to come out and get that grind every day at that level. That intensity level he needs to have to be at that level.”
Fuller hopes to become an all-around player in the meantime.
“Not just being known to hit, “he added. “Like I said, I will work on my defensive skills the most, but at the same time, I will still be working hitting. I want to perfect my game even more. I just have to put in more work.”
He also set high aspirations as he enters the ranks of the Cardinals.
“I want to make a name, a bigger name for myself playing under their organization,” Fuller said. “Someday making it to the big leagues and just continue for my career to move on.”
Follow Derek Shore on Twitter @D_Shore23.
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