MORRIS — The 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft will always be a memorable one in the history of Morris baseball.
That is because two former Morris pitchers were selected - Matt Walker of Illinois State Uinversity in the 13th round, 382nd pick overall, by the Detroit Tigers, and Andrew Peters of John A. Logan College in the 21st round, 638th pick overall, by the Tampa Bay Rays.
"Quote from Kein..."
As hard as it may be to believe for a town the size of Morris, it is not the first time that two Redskins were taken in the same draft. In 1993, Scott Spiezio - then at University of Illinois, was selected in the sixth round by Oakland and Kelly Dransfeldt was taken in the seventh round by Minnesota. Dransfeldt, however, decided to attend University of Michigan instead, and was eventually selected in the fourth round by Texas in 1996. Then, in 2001, Billy Petrick was selected by the Cubs in the third round - the highest a Morris player has been selected - and Dean Devine was taken in the 23rd round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Spiezio, Dransfeldt and Petrick all reached the major leagues. Zach Petrick, Billy's brother, made it as high as AA with the St. Louis Cardinals before playing in Japan and Korea, but he was signed by St. Louis as an undrafted free agent.
For Walker, it was the end of a whirlwind week. Illinois State was selected to play in the NCAA Tournament, and the Redbirds beat Indiana in the opening game before Walker threw a complete game to beat No. 7-ranked Louisville to advance his team to the championship round of the Louisville Regional. Louisville, however, beat Illinois State twice and moved on to the Louisville Super Regional. A couple days later, Walker got the call that he had been drafted.
"It was quite a week, that's for sure," Walker said. "First, we had to get selected to be in the tournament. Only the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament champion gets an automatic bid, and Indiana State won that. But, we made a good enough run that they selected us, too. It was just like watching the basketball teams waiting for their names to be called for that tournament.
"Then, I got the complete game against Louisville, and then a couple days later, I was drafted. None of it has really hit me yet. I don't think of how big things are in the moment, but I am sure it will all hit me soon."
Walker said he is leaning toward signing with the Tigers, in chich case he would report to their spring training facility by Monday.
"Most likely, I will sign," he said. "It all depends on the details, which I can't go into right now, but playing pro baseball has been my dream since I started playing baseball and I would love to have that chance."
Even after spending three years at Illinois State, Walker said that lessons learned while at Morris helped carry him through his Redbird career.
"Coach Kein always taught us and expected us to be sharp every day," Walker said. "I definitely carried that over into college. I will never forget that.
"I really just want to get started playing professional baseball and keep playing until they tell me no."
Peters underwent Tommy John surgery after appearing in only one game for John A. Logan, and has committed to play for University of South Carolina next year. He said he is a month or so away from being able to throw lightly and begin rehabbing his elbow to be ready for next season.
"I am probably leaning more toward going back to school," Peters admitted. "To have the opportunity to pitch for three years in one of the best baseball conferencees in the country is definitely something to think about. I think I could raise my stock in a future draft if I can do that and prove that I can stay healthy."
Peters aid that he must make a decision soon, as certain deadlines must be met if he is indeed going to return to school, where he will study physical education and hope tocoe a coach after his playing days are over.
If he does become a coach, one thing he won't accept is his players being late, something he learned from his time at Morris.
"One thing I take with me from high school is punctuality," he said. "Coach Kein stressed that. If pracitce started at a certain time, that means you show up early and have your stretching done by that time. On time is late."
No matter what Peters decides to do with his immediate future, Kein is looking forward to following it.
"Andrew has been injury-riddled the last couple of years," Kein said. "For him to be deciding whether to play in the SEC or in a major-league organization with all the injuries he has had speaks volumes for the potential he has. We are hoping he comes back stronger than ever from Tommy John surgery and shows everyone what he is truly capable of."