In June 2006, Adam Ottavino’s lifelong dream was on the other side.
He hung up.
An elite Northeast forward, Ottavino followed the first round of the MLB Draft, then an untelevised event held via conference call. According to the call, the Dodgers were in 26th place around the clock, four spots ahead of the Cardinals, who contacted Ottavino to say they would take him to number 30. It was sport.
“I won’t believe you until they say my name,” Ottavino told them.
His response was a unique moment held before and by the MLB Draft, which is differentiated from other major sports by how long it took to reach television and how it was cut. Major League Baseball is the only major professional sport written in the season, a tradition that will continue on Sunday with the Red Sox fourth overall. Until this year, the MLB Draft was also conflicting with the college baseball calendar, forcing certain first-rounders, such as Ottavino, to put their dreams on hold every year.
Matt Barnes remembers.
Five years after Ottavino’s hanging, the Red Sox were sitting closer to the dugout for a do-or-die NCAA regional tournament game in Clemson, SC. Friends and family kept Barnes informed about the draft from their stand, where news drops down that his UConn teammate and new Blue Jays new outfielder George Springer finished 11th overall in the Astros before the Sox took him to 19th place. But at the moment, the fact that Barnes would soon be signed for more than a million hardly matters.
“We had a ball game to win,” he said. “It was really like the design took a seat back to what was going on.”
As UConn Barnes ’team advanced to the next round, with a few days of rest and reflection, he kept his blinders on.
“When the season ended, we would deal with it,” Barnes said. “Of course there were months of negotiations … but for me it was ‘let’s win and see if we can go to Omaha.’ Ball Pro wasn’t really a thought when I played.”
While Barnes ’last college team never reached the Promised Land, his manager did. In 1996, Sox skipper Alex Cora led the University of Miami to the College Games World Series title a day after being selected as a short in the third round of the MLB Draft. It was the second time Cora’s name was mentioned, after concerns about the significance caused her actions to plummet in 1993 as a high school prospect.
Ever since former Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez told a young Cora this news, he’s shrugged.
“There was no answer, to be honest,” said Cora, who went to Minnesota in the 12th round of the ’93 draft. “It was like, ‘Oh. Really?’”
Fast forward, and joining the Dodgers organization after a great career in college caused another non-response from Cora. At least initially.
“It was great, but I was so close to what we tried to realize that I celebrated it a bit after LSU celebrated us [in the title game]’te di Cora. “But it was special that it was the Dodgers. … You never thought the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Red Sox or the Cubs would write you. You never thought so. So the fact that the Dodgers were doing that was great. “
Somewhere on Cora’s official list of important MLB franchises are the Cardinals, who in 2006 were among the few teams who believed a young Ottavino could survive as a major league starter. The move finally failed, with Ottavino landing on waivers less than six years later. He posted an 8.46 ERA on his stop in St. Louis; in retrospect just another, longer interruption in his pursuit of a lifelong dream.
“I think it would be better for me not to be picked by the Cardinals. But at the time, I didn’t know that and I was super excited,” Ottavino said. “My dad and I talked about it for years, if we got to the first round we would dance in the street. So after being called, we ran out and danced. All right for my parents ‘house.’