Florida Gators prepare for the MLB Draft

The timing of the Major League Baseball Draft is bewildering, falling on the same weekend as the NCAA Tournament begins the Super Regional round. Sure, most high school and college teams are finished with their seasons, but the Florida Gators and the 15 other teams that will play for a ticket to Omaha this weekend have talented players that will be drafted — they wouldn’t still be playing if they didn’t.

“I talked to Sully and they’ve got guys committed and then somebody’s drafted or whatever,” Jim McElwain, who was speaking about satellite camps in college football said of the MLB Draft process. “I don’t know how they keep it organized, to be honest.

As 16 college teams prepare for a weekend of baseball that will determine if they pack their bags and look towards next year or realize a dream and head to Omaha for the College World Series, Major League teams will be calling names, making selections and changing the lives of both high school and collegiate players.

The Gators have eight players that were listed as top-500 prospects by Baseball America. A.J Puk, Logan Shore, Buddy Reed, Dane Dunning, Shaun Anderson, Pete Alonso, Scott Moss and Kirby Snead will have to handle a lot in the coming days.

With Florida scheduled to begin play against Florida State on Saturday, Puk and Reed, who are both projected as first round picks, should have their names called on Thursday and can focus again on the task at hand at Florida, but the draft isn’t new to the juniors. It’s been the elephant in the room all season long.

“It’s always there and it’s always on your mind during the year,” junior reliever Shaun Anderson said. “Sully really preaches if you take care of your business on the field the draft will take care of itself. You really don’t focus on the draft, you focus on winning, then spots will fall into place by Thursday.”

This isn’t O’Sullivan’s first rodeo with the draft; he’s had 61 players selected during his nine-year tenure at Florida, including 48 in the last six years. As a coach he knows how important this weekend is, but what the draft is, the opportunity to realize lifelong dreams for the players he spends days, months and years with, is not lost on him either.

“I’m excited for all of our guys, the timing of the draft ain’t great,” head coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “That’s the other good thing about playing Saturday, Sunday, Monday, it gives us another day of buffer. Let these guys enjoy it Thursday night early Friday and then we kind of take a deep breath get together on Friday and move on and concentrate on Florida State.”

Florida State will come and the Gators hope is to end the Noles’ season for a second straight year, punching its own ticket to Omaha. The schedule makers, which placed the Gainesville Super Regional on Saturday rather than on Friday, should help Florida, especially for the guys that are taken on Thursday and Friday night. Puk and Reed will watch Thursday’s selection show with each other and their families, both hoping to hear their names before the end of the night. Logan Shore could sneak his way into the first round after a rock solid three years in Gainesville and Shaun Anderson, Pete Alonso and Dane Dunning could all have new homes before the Super Regional begins.

This Florida team set its sight on Omaha early on, and they have been a selfless bunch all season. For a night or two, however, they will be able to focus on themselves and realize the payoff for years of dedication.

Then it’s back to Florida State and the Road to Omaha.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC