Ep. 1: 'I wasn't going to be denied'
The following is an excerpt from the script to Episode 1 of Season 2. Click on the embed above to listen to the full episode, or you can subscribe to Razed Sports on your favorite podcast app.
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One of the biggest moments in any elite athlete’s life, at least in the major American team sports, is the draft. You see them on TV, and it’s always so dramatic. The athletes are sitting there, surrounded by relatives, cameras trained on their faces, almost always nervous, intense. Then when one of them hears his name called, there is this intense release of emotion. The countless hours of training, practice, games, sacrifice and preparation – it’s all finally paid off, the dream come to fruition. He’s going to be a professional athlete.
We’re most often used to seeing this moment in the NBA and the NFL. The NBA draft is just two rounds long, with 60 players selected. The NFL is seven rounds. Both are televised in their entirety.
The Major League Baseball draft, though, is kind of a different animal. Baseball is so technically demanding, that it usually takes years of development before a player is ready for the highest level. So teams stockpile players, and hope to develop them in the minors and eventually turn them into big leaguers. That’s why baseball’s draft is 40 rounds long, spread out over three days. It used to be even longer.
Now, imagine waiting that out, watching the picks roll by, hoping you’ll be one of the 1,200 or so players picked. And imagine it being – more than likely – your last chance to be a professional baseball player.
Cole Uvila: “The third day was, I know this all now but at the time I had no idea. So it was an extremely long day.”
That’s Cole Uvila, who was one of those players sweating it out in the summer of 2018. He and Kayla -- his girlfriend at the time who is now his fiancé -- were in the car with their husky, Lola. They thought Cole would’ve been picked in the first two days, so when he wasn’t they got in the car and started driving from Georgia, where Cole was a pitcher at Georgia-Gwinnett College, all the way across the country to their home state of Washington. Here’s Kayla:
Kayla: “The beginning of the day he was driving. I think because he didn't want to have to like sit there and feel obligated to check his phone non-stop. Because what day 3 is like three picks a minute or something, they just pump them out as fast as possible. …
“… we had known, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Don't bank on this happening. We were driving back to Washington to go find an apartment pretty much. And, even when he was driving I'm sitting over there refreshing Twitter like trying to have him not notice because I don't want him to be like 'stop checking it, stop checking it.' But I just, I had to keep checking it every minute to see every round.”
Around round 30 or so. Cole can’t stand it anymore. So Kayla takes over driving duties and he monitors things. But it doesn’t look good. Rounds 36, 37, 38 slip by. Only two rounds left and still no news. But Cole was still hopeful. He knew there was a team that liked him … the Texas Rangers. He had grown close with Derrick Tucker, a Rangers area scout in charge of Georgia, plus Nasvhille and the Eastern half of Tennessee. Tucker liked Cole’s arm, and had pushed him to his bosses.
But in the 39th round, the Rangers did something that caused some alarm for Cole and Kayla.
Kayla: “When they drafted a quarterback, we were like 'is this really happening?' Cole was like 'there's no way I'm getting drafted. they just took a quarterback.' And I'm like 'you never know! Anything could happen.'”
The quarterback in question was Shea Patterson of the University of Michigan. Patterson was actually a pretty good high school baseball player, but to Cole and his family, this looked like a bad sign. When the pick was announced, Cole’s father Steve, who had monitored every pick of the draft from home, couldn’t take it anymore.
Cole: “He knew the Rangers were probably the team that was going to take me -- and in the 39th round the Rangers drafted the Michigan quarterback, Shea Patterson. Who ended up signing, but at the time we had no idea. We thought it was just a throwaway pick, which is kinda common in the late late rounds, Shea Patterson. So they drafted a football player and when my dad saw that he was kind of so frustrated that he just shut off the computer and went for a walk to cool down.”
There was one round to go, and as far as anyone knew, the Rangers were the only team interested in drafting Cole. That meant he had one shot left, with Cole’s baseball career potentially hanging in the balance.
But as nerve-wracking as that was. It was really just one more moment of uncertainty for Cole Uvila, one more hurdle in what you’ll see is a uniquely interesting and unorthodox baseball journey …
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Written and produced by Bob Harkins.
(All music edited for time purposes)
Port Angeles’ Cole Uvila selected by Texas Rangers in MLB draft (Peninsula Daily News) Read