Erik Bakich‘s massive first recruiting class —- a necessity for a ginormous overhaul of Maryland’s beleaguered baseball program —- meant selling copious amounts of playing time.
More than 20 players liked what they heard about the Terrapins. It just so happened four liked the allure of signing a professional contract even more.
“If you recruit at a high level —- which every other team in our league is, so why shouldn’t we? —- but if you’re recruiting at that level, you’re going to encounter the Major League Baseball Draft and things are going to go down to the deadline and there are going to be some players and some families that have some tough decisions to make if a lot of money is thrown at them,” Bakich said late last week. “But that’s the risk you take.”
The recruiting pitch was just as strong this year. The size of the class was more manageable. And, perhaps more importantly, none of the Terps’ projected additions bailed for a run at a pro career.
Last week’s signing deadline came and passed, and not one of the Terps’ three newcomers picked in June’s draft opted to sign. Instead, junior college pitcher Ben O’Shea (10th round), in-state infielder K.J. Hockaday (14th round) and versatile speedster Andrew Amaro (47th round) all are expected to join Maryland to continue Bakich’s rebuilding of a program with three winning seasons in the last quarter-century.
“If we’re doing a good job developing our players, which we are, and we’re talking about a program that is building and the best days are ahead of it, then I think it’s going to be attractive to some of the top players in the country to know they can come in and be an immediate contributor to help that process happen,” Bakich said.
Hockaday, a slugging shortstop out of Bel Air’s John Carroll School, is such a piece. He was drafted by the Orioles, and Bakich said there was concern Hockaday might opt to sign with his hometown team.
Bakich said Hockaday’s family decided it would take “a seven-figure bonus” to bypass the college level.
“I think from the Orioles’ standpoint, if there had been a couple players drafted ahead of K.J. in the earlier rounds that they didn’t reach an agreement with, maybe that opportunity to get that bonus could have been a realistic option,” Bakich said. “Any player of that caliber is certainly going to be somebody who has a chance to make a big impact on a college program for three straight years and we have that expectation for him.”
O’Shea, a 250-pound left-hander who didn’t agree to terms with the Chicago White Sox, is another possible immediate contributor. With a low-90s fastball, O’Shea has the physical tools to succeed.
The great question to Bakich is whether O’Shea, who was admitted to Maryland and is taking an online class while wrapping up his junior college requirements, can quickly transition to the speed of a higher level.
“He certainly has credibility being a 10th-rounder,” Bakich said. “That doesn’t mean it pencils him into a weekend rotation spot. I think a guy who’s left-handed with arm strength like that, being able to throw on a downhill plane from a 6-foot-6 body, I think he’s going to have a chance to get a lot of innings pitched for us.”
Amaro, the nephew of Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.., was a final day pick by the Phillies. While the selection might appear to be a family favor, Bakich is eager to add Andrew Amaro as he tries to build a team that pressures opponents on the bases.
“He does have a premium tool in the sense that he can really, really run,” Bakich said. “He’s a left-handed hitter. He can play infield or outfield, but he has blazing speed. He can get down the line in four seconds, sometimes less, which is about the top speed that you see in this conference or college baseball in general. Speed, like they say, is something that never slumps.”
With everyone in the fold, Bakich isn’t facing unexpected holes in his roster. That makes it a bit less stressful as the team’s fall workouts arrive and the Terps begin trying to move past last year’s 21-35 season that ended with a 1-10 slide (and, even more far-reaching, a 4-16 mark over the final 20 games).
“I think it’s more anxiousness of our staff to get started,” Bakich said. “Just the way last season ended on such a sour note, I think everyone is eagerly anticipating the process of getting this team better and having this team achieve the goals that we set out [to meet] as opposed to fall short.”
—- Patrick Stevens