ADAM CONLEY, like so many of us, has dreamed of playing professional baseball since he was a child. Unlike the vast majority of us, Conley is on the verge of turning his dream into a reality. Conley, the ace of the Washington State pitching staff, was selected by Florida in the second round of the first-year player draft Tuesday. He was the 72nd pick overall.
Conley has a year of college eligibility remaining, but he has made it clear he plans to turn pro this summer. WSU coach Donnie Marbut has given Conley his blessing to leave early, partly because so much money is available to high draft picks.
Conley was sitting at the computer with his father, Larry, at their Olympia home when Adam’s name appeared. His reaction?
“To be honest with you, a lot of relief,” Conley said, “because I didn’t know who would draft me or what round. When the Marlins picked me up, I was really excited about it. I’m really blessed they’re giving me an opportunity to play professional baseball.”
Derek Jones, WSU’s junior right fielder from Snohomish, was drafted in the 13th round by Baltimore. Jones was the 395th player picked.
Conley said he’s been fielding a steady steam of congratulatory phone calls and text messages from friends and teammates past and present.
“I’ve just been kind of enjoying the moment,” he said.
Conley said the Marlins’ Pacific Northwest scout, Gabe Sandy, phoned right after Conley was drafted. Conley said the call was strictly congratulatory in nature, with no discussion of initial contract talks.
Teams usually meet with top draft picks within two or three days. NCAA Division I juniors like Conley are often assigned to short-season Class A teams like the Jamestown (N.Y.) Jammers, Florida’s farm club in the New York-Penn League.
The Northwest League is the only other short-season Class A league. Notable former big leaguers who played in Jamestown include Randy Johnson, Andre Galarraga and Larry Parrish. Other NYP alumni include Baseball Hall of Famers Wade Boggs, Robin Yount and Phil Niekro.
Conley had hoped to be drafted Monday, when the top 60 players were selected in the first and sandwich rounds. Baseball America magazine ranked Conley 69th among this year’s draft-eligible players.
“Obviously, you want to go on the first day,” Conley said. “But the most important thing is your career in baseball and not what day in the draft you get picked up. I wasn’t really discouraged about it. I’m pretty indifferent on what day I got drafted, or what round I got drafted.
"It doesn’t change the pitcher I am or the person I’m going to be. Obviously, it would be a great, great honor to go on the first day, but to get your name called at all in the draft is an honor and a blessing.”
Conley is the highest WSU draft pick since 1991, when Boston nabbed pitcher Aaron Sele in the first round and catcher Scott Hatteberg in the supplemental first round.
Sele, drafted 23rd overall, won 148 games in 15 seasons in the major leagues. Hatteberg, the 43rd pick, hit .273 with 106 home runs in 14 big league seasons.
The 50-round draft continues through Wednesday. Marbut expects several other Cougars to be drafted, including leading hitter Taylor Ard, a redshirt sophomore first baseman.
On Tuesday, signed WSU recruit Ben Roberts was drafted in the seventh round (214th overall) by Arizona. Roberts is an outfielder from Missoula, Mont.