Looking Back At The Baseball Draft

By Chuck Curti
Updated: June 16, 2009

PIKESVILLE, Md. — Charles Thomas was on vacation, visiting the Statue of Liberty, when his phone rang. On the other end was a representative from the Chicago Cubs, who informed Thomas that the team had taken him in the 10th round of the Major League Baseball draft.

And somewhere, Buck O’Neil is smiling.

Thomas, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound corner infielder, became the first player from Edward Waters College drafted by the major leagues. Edward Waters, of course, is where O’Neil, the Negro Leagues legend, attended college.

Thomas was overlooked in high school. EWC coach Kerby Marshall said Thomas was always quick with the bat, but slow afoot, which, he believes, kept Thomas from drawing the attention of scouts.

Still, Marshall saw something in Thomas that made him believe bigger things were in store. “I told him, you put in the work and in three years, you’re going to be out of here,” said Marshall. “Sure enough, three years later …”

“I believed him,” said Thomas. “But I still have a lot of work to do. Maybe in three more years I’ll make it to the big show.”

In addition to being a powerful hitter, Thomas also has a fastball that has been clocked as high as 94 mph. The Cubs drafted Thomas as a third baseman, but when the team worked him out before the draft, he pitched in addition to spending time at first base.

“As long as I’m at the pro level,” said Thomas. “Whatever gets me there, that’s cool. I just want to let it happen. I know I’ll make it one day.”

“With Charles, the sky is the limit,” said Marshall. “He’s still young and raw.”

Marshall was not the first player from an HBCU taken in the 2009 draft. That distinction went to Bethune-Cookman pitcher Hiram Burgos. Burgos, a right-hander, went 6-3 with a 3.74 ERA this past year, and he struck out 94 batters in just 79.1 innings.

Fellow Wildcat pitcher Eric Thomas also was selected, taken in the 19th round by Seattle. Thomas went 7-6 with a 4.98 ERA and struck out 83 in 81.1 innings.

Another pair of teammates also was drafted: Prairie View A&M’s Myrio Richard went in the ninth round to Oakland, and fellow Panther Brandon Whitby was taken in the 34th round by Colorado.

Myrio Richard is the brother of Mike Richard, also a PVAM product, who is playing with Oakland’s high Class-A club at Stockton. He is hitting .262 with 32 runs scored and 13 stolen bases through 48 games. Myrio hit .315 with six homers, 33 RBIs and 20 stolen bases for the Panthers in ’09.

Whitby, a catcher, hit .375 with four homers and 38 RBIs. He was one of three catchers selected from HBCUs. The others were Southern’s Michael Thomas and Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Zach Varnell. Both Thomas (12th round, Boston) and Varnell (44th round, Arizona) are known for their defensive capabilities.

A pair of Division II players also was selected: Lincoln (Mo.) pitcher Andrew Moss (35th round, St. Louis) and St. Augustine’s shortstop Antoine Shaw (45th round, Oakland).

Moss was named to the Heartland Conference’s first-team as a starting pitcher. He struck out 100 batters, which led the conference and ranked 10th in the nation. His strikeouts-per-nine innings (10.5) ranked 19th in the nation.

Shaw was the CIAA’s Player of the Year after helping lead the Falcons to their first conference regular-season title in four years. He ranked fourth nationally with a .479 batting average, and third nationally in runs per game (1.47) and on-base percentage (.569).

Shaw said in a statement on the St. Augustine’s Web site that he was “in shock” about being drafted. The school’s Web site also said that Shaw would take the next several days to decide whether to sign or return to school.

If Shaw was “shocked” to be drafted, it came as no shock that Mississippi Valley State’s Jeff Squier and North Carolina A&T’s C.J. Beatty were selected. Squier went in the 14th round to Colorado, and Beatty went in the 26th round to St. Louis.

“They (Cardinals) called me in the 10th round and made me an offer,” said Beatty. “They told me to sit tight and they’d call me if I was still around.

“The St. Louis Cardinals took a chance on me. I just wanted the opportunity because I know I’m going to go there and work my tail off.”

Beatty was twice named NCAT’s Male Athlete of the Year, and finished his career with a .339 average, 31 homers and 135 RBIs. Both he and Moss will likely be assigned to the Cardinals’ short-season Class A team in Batavia, N.Y.

Every baseball player’s dream is to play professionally. For Squier, it worked out even better than he imagined. Growing up in Colorado, he was always a Rockies fan and often attended games at Coors Field with a friend who had season tickets.

Squier said the Pittsburgh Pirates also showed a great amount of interest in drafting him, and going into the draft, he believed that’s who would call his name. But it was his beloved Rockies who made the call first.

“You can’t explain what it’s like to play for the team you grew up watching,” said Squier, who was voted MVSU’s Male Athlete of the Year. He hit .354 with eight homers, 26 RBIs and 41 stolen bases for the Delta Devils this past season.

Squier worked out at Coors Field with several other prospects recently, and, according to MVSU coach Doug Shanks, Squier “out-ran them all, and out-hit them all, too.” Known for his speed and strong arm, Squier will play either outfield or shortstop in the Rockies’ organization.

Squier said that one of the reasons he chose to attend Mississippi Valley was because of the team’s strong non-conference schedule. Playing against bigger schools, he thought, would give him a chance to be seen by scouts who might not otherwise scout the SWAC.

That plan worked to perfection, and now Squier is on a mission to make it to the majors. “I guess I’m carrying a little chip on my shoulder for all the guys in the SWAC who get overlooked.”