MLB dreams come true for five area baseball players
Written by Jim Brockman on June 6, 2014 | Herald-Tribune
SARASOTA, Fla. – Three former Sarasota Sailors along with a long, tall ex-Riverview Ram and a slugger for the Southeast Seminoles received the phone call of a lifetime on Friday.
Led by 6-foot-7 southpaw Eric Skoglund, who starred at the University of Central Florida in Orlando after graduating from Sarasota High, all five area players were selected on the second day of the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft.
After Skoglund got the call from the Kansas City Royals in the third round (No. 92 overall), 6-7 right-hander Chad Sobotka, who did not start pitching until late in his high school career at Riverview, went No. 133 overall in the fourth round to the Atlanta Braves.
Michael Suchy, a 6-3, 220- pound slugging outfielder for Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers after starring at Southeast, was snatched by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the fifth round (No. 161 overall).
Former Sarasota teammates Keith Curcio and Danny Mars were selected back-to-back in the sixth round, No. 193 and No. 194, respectively. Like Sobotka, Curcio was selected by the Braves, while Mars was tabbed by the Boston Red Sox.
All five draftees said they expect to sign contracts and begin their professional careers.
“I’ll definitely sleep better tonight,” Skoglund said. “It’s been a tough few days. It got pretty hectic and stressful as the draft grew closer. But it’s all been well worth it. Right now I feel relieved and blessed. I’m getting the opportunity to play Major League Baseball.”
Skoglund made the right choice three years ago when the Pirates drafted him in the 16th round (No. 482 overall), coming out of high school. He elected not to sign, attended college and watched his draft stock rise.
Skoglund’s signing bonus will be $576,000.
“I was home, watching and waiting with my family,” Skoglund said. “I had an idea of where I would go. The mid-third round was about the latest I thought I would be picked.
“We were all anticipating a call. Now, we’re all set.”
Sobotka is expecting a signing bonus in the neighborhood of $400,000 from the Braves. On Friday, he became the highest drafted player in the history of the University of South Carolina-Upstate, despite missing the entire 2014 season with a stress fracture in his back.
“I was so excited and honored to be picked by the Braves,” Sobotka said. “They have the tradition of being one of the best pitching organizations out there with guys like Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux.”
The Braves want Sobotka to continue his rehab from the back injury at the team’s minor league headquarters at Lake Buena Vista.
Sobotka returned to the mound a couple of weeks ago and is now playing long-toss after not pitching for more than two months.
“There haven’t been any more issues with my back,” the 200-pound Sobotka said. “In the future, I would like to gain weight and maybe get to 235 pounds.
“I also think it is going to be awesome to play on the same team with Keith Curcio.”
Curcio starred as an outfielder for three seasons at Florida Southern in Lakeland after playing mostly shortstop and second base for the Sailors in high school. The Braves are looking at him primarily as a center fielder.
“Everything just kind of blended into a great moment today,” Curcio said. “This is a small step in the grand scheme of things. I couldn’t ask for a better organization to play for.
“I know Chad from playing against him in high school. It will be even better knowing someone going in.”
The Red Sox are looking at Mars, a switch-hitter, as a center fielder.
Mars and Curcio worked out together on Friday morning before being selected in the afternoon. The morning topic of conversation, of course, was when they would be picked after not going in the first two rounds of the draft on Thursday night.
“It was a crazy day,” Mars said. “I haven’t been sleeping much and my dream came true. This must have been the longest day of my life.”
Mars had just worked out for the Red Sox this week.
“I fell in love with Boston even before they picked me,” Mars said. “This was the greatest moment in my life so far.”
Suchy will have the shortest trip to begin his new professional journey at Pirate City.
“It will only be a bike ride away,” Suchy said.
“I look forward to the new experience. The odds of getting drafted were against all of us. But this is what I feel destined to do.”
The draft will resume Saturday at 1:05 p.m.