June 17, 2013
This feature appeared in the June 17 edition of the K-State Sports Extra.
By Mark Janssen
For Kansas State baseball players – Jared King, Ross Kivett and Shane Conlon – the last month has been like a hang-on experience on America’s most severe “Six Flags” ride.
“It’s been a rollercoaster,” said Kivett of the Wildcats’ Big 12 Conference title, to being eliminated at the postseason tournament, to winning the NCAA Manhattan Regional, to being edged in the final inning of the final game at the Super Regional at Oregon State. “It will take time to recover.” Briefly, here are their north-to-south, east-to-west stories of the last 30 days.
If you’re 21 years old and you’re offered … oh, say between $400,000 and $500,000 as a signing bonus to play with a bat and a ball, what would you do as a senior-to-be?
“Yes, I’m going to sign on Tuesday,” said center fielder Jared King, who was a fifth-round draft choice of the New York Mets. “I wouldn’t call it a no-brainer, but I’m ready to start my pro career. It would be hard to imagine a better year to end my K-State career with. I think I’m ready physically and mentally. It’s my time to leave and go to the next level.”
On hearing he had been drafted, King said he received a phone call from the Mets, and then saw his name pop up on the computer screen moments later while in Corvallis, Ore.
“To be honest, I had hoped to go a little higher, but it was exciting when the call finally came,” said King, whose brother, Jason, was drafted nine draft positions higher (4th round) three years ago when he left K-State after his junior year. “I was surprised it was the Mets because we hadn’t been in contact. I had heard more from the Diamondbacks, Royals, Giants, Mariners and Indians. The draft is so unpredictable.”
In K-State history, the only other players to go higher than King in the regular Major League Baseball Draft are: Carter Jurica (201) in the third round; plus Jason King (2011), Evan Marshall (2011) A.J. Morris (2009) and Edward Hopkins (1969) in the fourth rounds.
If you’re a 21-year old and you had just earned Big 12 Player of the Year honors, what would you do if offered $120,000 to $150,000, plus have the rest of your college education paid for, to play a game that’s your passion since being a little leaguer?
As of Saturday, second baseman Ross Kivett, a 10th round draft choice of the Cleveland Indians, said, “Honestly, I don’t handle losing well, so I’ve tried to get over that last game (a 4-3 loss to Oregon State in the Super Regional) before thinking too much about the future. I don’t want to make a decision when I’m on an emotional rollercoaster.”
Kivett said he learned that he had been drafted while on the bus going from the ballpark to the team hotel at the Super Regional. Laughing, he said, “It was exciting to be drafted, but it didn’t happen in any kind of special way.”
For Kivett, it was an All-American season, which he said “… was a nice individual accolade, but it’s all about my teammates and how hard they worked. What I really wanted was to be in Omaha (College World Series).”
A native of Broadview Heights, Ohio, what makes Kivett’s decision a little tougher is the fact that he’s been a lifelong fan of the Indians.
“The draft is such a weird bird,” said Kivett, who will play in the Cape Cod League this summer if he doesn’t sign. “Drafted by Cleveland does make it hard, but you have to put those favorite-team emotions away to make a logical career decision.”
If you’re a 21-year old sophomore, but draft-eligible, what would you do if offered up to a $100,000 signing bonus, plus the remaining of your college education to catch balls at first base and swat at baseballs with a Louisville Slugger?
First baseman Shane Conlon, a 21st-round selection of the Kansas City Royals, said, “I haven’t actually decided, but I would say I’m leaning on coming back. I want another chance to make the College World Series. Being only a sophomore, I have a little extra leverage.”
Conlon was draft-eligible because he is 21 years old and has completed three years at K-State after a medical hardship season in 2012 when he was a pitcher.
Conlon said he started visiting with the Royals during the Big 12 Tournament, so he wasn’t that surprised when the call came.
“Being drafted has always been a dream, and my parents now live in Lawrence, so being drafted by Kansas City is pretty neat, but getting to the College World Series has also been a big dream,” said Conlon, who will play in San Luis Obispo, Calif., this summer if he does not sign.
Whatever these Wildcat baseball players decide in the next two or three days, they’ll forever be a part of K-State baseball history as being on the first conference championship team in 80 years, first Super Regional team ever, and the winningest team in school history with 45 victories.
“It was crazy,” said King. “Driving back home (to Ohio) it started to set in on what a crazy run it was. It’s hard to come by the chemistry that we had. We started the year just wanting to have a good season, get to the NCAA Tournament and be respectable in the Big 12.”
Laughing, he continued, “What we did was win the Big 12, host a regional, and win 45 games. We had high expectations, but to be honest, we went way beyond those expectations. On the way home from Corvallis, we were sad, but also laughing at how much we had accomplished.”
Kivett added, “It means a lot now, but I’m sure it’s going to mean more in the future.”
And, Conlon summarized, “We were two runs away from why we play college baseball … to get to the College World Series. We were so close, and to get a taste of it is what makes me consider coming back. This team had such a will to win. We hated losing more than we enjoyed winning. We were a close group; we were best friends.”