Ex-Sailor Skoglund is prepared to give pro baseball a try ... but where?
Written by Dennis Maffezzoli on June 3, 2014 | Herald-Tribune
SARASOTA, Fla. – Eric Skoglund was thrilled to hear his name called in the 2011 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 16th round with the 482nd overall pick.
He had just completed a stellar high school career at Sarasota High.
“I was definitely excited,” he said. “I did want to play pro ball. But at the same time, I did want to get my college experience, get three years of education under my belt. It’s always exciting to be drafted.”
Deep down, the tall, lanky, left-handed pitcher knew he was not ready – physically or mentally – for professional baseball.
“Honestly, education is a big part of my family,” he said. “I didn’t think I was ready to play at the next level, especially professional. I wasn’t matured body-wise, physically. My best choice would be to go to college and three years of education.”
“We talked to him and his parents about that,” Sarasota High baseball coach Clyde Metcalf said. “The tools were there. He needed to physically mature. He needed to get more size and strength.”
So instead of signing with the Pirates, Skoglund accepted a scholarship offer with the University of Central Florida. He pitched three years with the Knights.
Along with education in the classroom – interdisciplinary studies with a minor in criminology – Skoglund learned how to pitch.
“Mentally, I’m a lot stronger, poised,” he said. “I understand the game within the game. Certain situations that occurred throughout the game I understand what I have to do: make pitches . . . it worked out perfectly.”
Now, he is ready.
Skoglund is the area’s top-rated prospect, according to Baseball America for this week's 2014 draft. Baseball American has him at No. 100 overall and No. 17 in the state. He will gather around the television with family and friends Thursday night in anticipation of his name being called in the first two rounds.
If not, there is always Friday and Saturday, when the draft continues with rounds three through 40.
“I’m very excited to see what happens,” Skoglund said. “I’m blessed to be in the position I’m in, having the opportunity to be drafted high. It’s always something I’ve wanted, and I’m ready for it.
“Hopefully, something good will happen.”
Skoglund had a breakout season during his junior season with the Knights. He went 9-3 with a 2.54 earned run average. In 15 starts, he notched three complete games and one shutout. In 110 innings, he allowed 86 hits and 27 walks with 94 strikeouts. Opponents hit .216 against Skoglund.
“I did pretty good. I had big expectations,” he said. “I tried to get my team in position to win as many games as we could. I threw the ball pretty well and kept us in a lot of games.”
Among his accolades was being named American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year and being named as one of 36 players up for the Gregg Olson Award as the best breakout season for a college player.
Metcalf saw Skoglund during the Christmas break when he returned to work out at Sarasota High and watched him many times on television and via the Internet.
“He looked great,” Metcalf said. “It takes a special kid to go from high school to the pros. He grew and matured as a pitcher, just what he needed to do.”
Being more consistent, making quality pitches every pitch, not taking pitches off and repeating my delivery from the first inning to the last inning were the areas Skoglund said he improved and matured the most.
During his three seasons in Orlando, Skoglund went 15-10 with a 3.36 ERA. He also put on 30 pounds – 10 each season – to go from 170 to 200 on his 6-foot-7 frame.
“That was definitely a huge part of it as well,” he said, adding there is room for 20 more pounds.
With former major leaguer Jim Bullinger out of Sarasota as his adviser, Skoglund thinks he now is ready for professional ball. Although, he still has a year of eligibility remaining at UCF.
“If things don’t work out as we believe they will, I’ll talk with my family and adviser and see what’s best for my future,” said Skoglund, who wants to be a real estate agent after his playing days. “But I’m definitely leaning toward playing professionally. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. This is the best time, especially after this year.”
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL FIRST YEAR PLAYER DRAFT
WHERE: Secaucus, N.J.
WHEN: 7:05 p.m. Thursday (Rounds 1 and 2) MLB Network/mlb.com
1:05 p.m. Friday (Rounds 3 to 10) mlb.com
1:05 p.m. Saturday (Rounds 11 to 40) mlb.com
NOTES: Houston has the first pick for the third straight seasons. The Marlins pick second. The Rays’ first pick is 20th.
AREA DRAFT HOPEFULS
The top area baseball players eligible for the 2014 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft according to Baseball America:
100. LHP Eric Skoglund, UCF/Sarasota High
115. RHP Chad Sobotka, USC-Upstate/Riverview
187. SS Dalton Guthrie, Venice High
188. OF Luke Bonfield, IMG Academy
216. OF Michael Suchy, FGCU/Southeast High
332. OF Danny Mars, Chipola JC/Sarasota High
396. RHP Weston Davis, Manatee High
407. C Mike Rivera, Venice High
439. SS/OF/3B Dylan Busby, Sarasota High