For three straight seasons, head coach Terry Rooney has pulled in three straight top-25 recruiting classes. He’s shifted some of his recruiting battles from tangling with other colleges to doing battle with professional baseball teams.
Five players turned down professional contracts to sign with the Knights out of the team’s 2011 recruiting class, and two players returned to school after being drafted as upperclassmen.
Pitchers Roman Madrid, Ryan Meyer, Garrett Nuss, Eric Skoglund and infielder Tommy Williams all chose to forgo the chance to play baseball for the professional organizations that drafted them and instead chose to suit up for Rooney at UCF.
Skoglund said that going into the draft, he had to consider his opportunity at both the professional and collegiate levels and decide which was better for him. As a pick in the 16th round, he had to weigh a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates or the chance to earn a degree.
For Skoglund, the opportunity to get an education while gaining experience on the diamond was too good to pass up.
“I really saw myself coming to UCF. I came on my unofficial visit and loved it,” Skoglund said. “Education definitely is the No. 1 key. My family is really high on education. Experience is definitely a huge key, especially playing three years of college baseball.”
Major League Baseball differs from basketball and football in that teams can select prospects directly out of high school. Most players spend a few years in their team’s minor league system before making it to the majors.
But if a player chooses to attend college and pass up his contract offer, he is eligible for the draft again after playing at least three years in college, playing at least one year at the junior-college level or turning 21.
Junior outfielder Ronnie Richardson and junior transfer pitcher Chris Matulis were both selected in the 2011 draft but returned to UCF.
Most players play college baseball with the hope of leaving as a more highly rated prospect, but that is not always the case. Richardson was selected in the 11th round by the Minnesota Twins out of high school and was more recently chosen in the 31st round by the Chicago Cubs last year.
Despite each player’s individual draft situation, they share the same goal as college players: make it to Omaha to play in the College World Series.
“Our goal is Omaha,” Matulis said. “That’s our team goal, and that’s my individual goal. I want to come back, make it to Omaha, win as many games as possible and do whatever I can to help the team win.”