It’s probably not a stretch to say this will be the biggest weekend of Tony Bryant’s life.
Oregon State’s senior right-hander will pitch in the NCAA Super Regional in Corvallis — tickets sold out in less than three days — as the Beavers take on Kansas State beginning Friday. The 6-foot-8 Kennewick native has been one of the steadiest relief men in school history and should make at least one appearance during the best-of-3 series.
“This is a dream come true. I’ve been waiting four years for this chance. We’re two wins away from going to Omaha,” Bryant said, anticipating a trip to the College World Series.
As if that weren’t enough, Major League Baseball will stage its First-Year Player Draft today through Saturday in Secaucus, N.Y., and there’s a good chance Bryant will find out who will be his next employer either Friday or Saturday.
He’s focused on Kansas State, for sure, but he’s also excited to begin a professional baseball career after a successful four years at OSU. He ranks third on the school’s all-time saves list with 22 and ranks ninth in all-time ERA at 2.63.
“I haven’t heard a ton. I heard from a couple (scouts), but you don’t ever really know where you’re going unless you’re supposed to go on the first day,” Bryant said. “As it is, I don’t care about money or (which) round. I just want to play pro ball.”
Bryant has had some experience with being drafted already, having been selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 25th round of the 2009 draft before heading to Oregon State. He doesn’t regret for one minute his decision to turn the Twins down.
“I’m pretty happy with my decision. I’ve grown as a person and I’m close to getting my degree,” he said. Kennewick coach A.J. Marquardt, Bryant’s high school skipper, said the Tri-Cities has plenty of talent, but it may not get much attention during the draft.
“There’s a lot of quality kids around, but the biggest kid might be (Wenatchee pitcher) Dustin Driver. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes,” said Marquardt, a former OSU standout. “I’d like to see (Bryant) get a chance. It would be nice to have (Richland native and Washington State standout) Brett Jacobs healthy. He’s such a good collegiate hitter that someone might give him a shot. Jarod Gonzales at Walla Walla Community College could be a late-round guy.”
Scouts agree that the top player in the state is catcher Reese McGuire out of Kentwood High School. The left-handed slugger with a rocket arm is expected to be taken among the first 10 picks today.
Aside from Stanford pitcher Mark Appel, who is virtually assured of going either No. 1 to the Houston Astros or No. 2 to the Chicago Cubs, the Pac-12 Conference may not have many high-profile prospects. There are still many solid options among Northwest colleges.
Gonzaga left-handed pitcher Marco Gonzales is the top-rated college prospect in the Pacific Northwest and is projected as a top-20 pick.
Oregon State has a trio of players that could go, including left-handed pitcher Matt Boyd, shortstop Tyler Smith and Bryant. At the University of Oregon, first baseman Ryon Healy and shortstop J.J. Altobelli should get a shot at pro ball. A pair of outfielders — Washington’s Mike Camporeale and Washington State’s Jason Monda — will likely be off the board after Day 2.
The NWAACC usually features a handful of strong prospects, but Columbia Basin College coach Chris Staton hopes MLB will stay away from his young talent.
“I’ve got a couple of freshmen coming in that I hope don’t get drafted,” Staton said. “Pierce has a guy (RHP Elliot Morris) throwing 96 (mph), and Tacoma has a couple guys that might get popped. But there aren’t as many 90-plus arms out there as in the past.”
The Colorado Rockies, the parent club of the Tri-City Dust Devils, hold the No. 3 overall pick. The Seattle Mariners have the No. 12 pick.