TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Three years ago, CJ VanEyk was selected in the 19th round of the Major League Baseball Draft out of high school. He decided he would wait for the pros and play for Florida State.
VanEyk worked his way into the weekend rotation by his sophomore season and helped get the Seminoles to the College World Series last year. Then his junior season was cut short because of the coronavirus, pitching in just four games before the season was canceled.
“You’ve got to put what’s behind you, behind you,” VanEyk said. “Like our season and just move-on to the next thing and turn the page. The next page for me was preparing for this opportunity. Hopefully, I have, and just getting my body and my mind right and just training for that.”
This next opportunity is his second swing at the MLB Draft, feeling much more prepared to take-on professional ball. He’s more mature and has more experience, but it’s also changed this time around because it’s all happening through the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s been all online, via Zoom or Skype or whatever the platform is,” VanEyk said. “It’s been different because in high school, the first go-around, it was kind of all in-person, which gave you a good feel for the person you’re meeting and their organization as a whole, versus meeting them online and getting that virtual experience that isn’t really the same as meeting them in person.”
And then there’s the added wrinkle of the draft shortening from 40 rounds to just five this year. For VanEyk, it shouldn’t impact his opportunity, as he’s projected to go in the first two rounds. But it’s still a drastic change for many prospects.
“It’s tough because a lot of good players aren’t going to get the opportunity that they once would have in a normal year to go play for a team and show what they can do,” VanEyk said. “Now they’re forced to stay amateurs for this next year and it’s going to be tough for them and I feel for them. But hopefully, I’ve put myself in a good position from my freshman year and my sophomore year to hopefully put myself in a good position.”
The Steinbrenner High School graduate is projected by MLB.com as the 39th pick. The Tampa Bay Rays have the 24th, 37th and 57th picks in the first two rounds. Just looking at those numbers, there’s a chance he could end-up with his hometown team, growing-up less than 40 miles from Tropicana Field.
“That would be a dream,” VanEyk said. “We’ve had some conversations with that organization. I think they like me and I like them, so that would be definitely a dream come true if that became possible. I’d love that.”
Come tonight, VanEyk said he’ll be watching and waiting for his name to be called.
“Just try and go in the there with no expectations is going to leave me happy with whatever ends-up happening,” VanEyk said. “So that’s what I’m going to try and do, but definitely keep an eye on where my Rays pick.”
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