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Dodgers draft day memories

Ross Stripling, Rich Hill, DJ Peters, Will Smith and Drew Saylor reminisce about the draft

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Los Angeles Dodgers
Ross Stripling
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Monday night, the 2017 MLB Draft will begin and over the next three days, hundreds of baseball players will have an opportunity to move the highest level of baseball. As you might expect, anyone who gets drafted remembers that day fondly.

Recently, I asked Dodger pitchers Ross Stripling and Rich Hill about their draft day experience and I also spoke to two 2016 Dodger draft picks, Will Smith and DJ Peters who play for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes about their experience last year. Finally, Drew Saylor, the Quakes manager talked about how having a big prospect as a college teammate helped his draft position.

In 2011, as a junior, Stripling was pitching in the College World Series for Texas A&M and he was also drafted for the first time by Colorado in the ninth round. He did not sign and went back to school.

“At that time, it wasn’t necessarily life-changing money and we had just gone to the World Series,” Stripling said, “I only had like 15 hours of class left, I was kind of born and raised an Aggie and I wanted to go back to school.

“I just kind of made the decision with the family to go back and finish school and certainly don’t regret it.”

Stripling finished his senior season and was a 2012 fifth-round pick by the Dodgers.

“Moved up a couple of rounds,” Stripling said, “and actually got a little bit more money which doesn’t happen too much as a senior, which is nice.”

2012 was the first season of slot values for the first 10 rounds and that change did not escape Stripling’s attention on his draft day.

“It was different, you know. That was the first day of the new draft, where they had top 10 slotted amounts,” Stripling said. “So I had a couple calls from teams saying, ‘Look we might take you in the third round but will you sign for like 10 grand.’

“I mean yeah I am going to take the opportunity but like I was hoping for a little bit more than that,” Stripling said. “So that was like kind of a funny situation where they were trying to figure out what to do with seniors. I was fortunate to go in the fifth round and the Dodgers gave me basically half of slot, which was more than I expected.”

Stripling, who was planning to sit with his family as the draft took place, finally had to take on a regular household chore to occupy himself while the draft was happening.

“I ended up kind of going crazy, I ended up doing laundry, just trying to pass time,” Stripling said, “I was drying some clothes, my name got called, my parents yelled from downstairs, ‘Hey, you just went’ and I just went sweet.”

Rich Hill was drafted in the fourth round in 2002 by the Chicago Cubs and while he knew that this day was just part of the process of a possible baseball career, it still was a day to remember.

“The anticipation of where you would get selected and it’s kind of the unknown really too,” Hill said, “because you don’t know where you are going to be picked but it’s also an exciting day knowing that you will be drafted.

“Maybe not to assume that you would get drafted either, but that opportunity and that day was special.”

Catcher Will Smith was drafted in the first round as the 32nd pick of the 2016 draft. Smith did not have to wait too long to get a memorable experience.

“It was one of the biggest moments of my life,” Smith said. “Seeing my name called out on TV, getting the phone call right after, it was a fun night for myself and then all of my teammates back at school.”

Outfielder DJ Peters was drafted in the fourth round and being from Southern California, getting drafted by the Dodgers made what was already going to be a memorable day even better.

“I was actually at my sister’s ultrasound, so like my whole family is there,” Peters said. “She actually scheduled on that day so just a coincidence, being with all my loved ones, all my friends and family, it was an absolute blessing.”

It was one of those family members who told Peters which team picked him.

“My dad pulled it up on his phone, and there it was, Dodgers in the fourth round. It will be a day I never forget, just because of the Dodgers, the hometown team, my favorite team picks me up in the fourth,” Peters said. “And of course, my niece, it was the first time we got to see her, so it was a lot of fun.”

Drew Saylor played at Kent State and in 2006, he was one of four players on that year’s team who was drafted. His teammate, Emmanuel Burress, was San Francisco’s first-round pick, and Saylor was Florida’s 13th-round pick.

“Obviously the highlight of that whole entire draft was Mr. Emmanuel Burriss, our first-rounder,” Saylor said, “But we had a good idea, we had a lot of solid seniors like myself and we had an idea that there was going to be a few of us taken.

“The whole entire process, even going back to my junior year, it was pretty elaborate,” Saylor said. “In terms of the interviews, a lot of the different IQ scores, personality, character, makeup tests, those kind of things.”

Saylor, now gets to see things from an organizational perspective as the manager of a minor league team.

“I was not a prospect by any means, being drafted I was an organizational filler,” Saylor said. “I can really realize it now especially from where I sit now.

“But I was blessed that I had a chance to play with [Burriss] because that is really why a lot of the other clubs came in because they are trying to make decisions. I can definitely say one of the reasons why I was drafted in the 13th round instead of the 20th or 30th or whatever may be is because I got to play with him.”