The Houston Astros swiped the right side of Vanderbilt’s infield and center field Connor Harrell was drafted by the Detroit Tigers for the second straight year.
Day two of the Major League Baseball Draft was a successful one for the Commodores. Three players were taken on Friday, adding to the selection of left-handed pitcher Kevin Ziomek by the Tigers in the second round on Thursday.
The Astros selected first baseman Conrad Gregor and second baseman Tony Kemp in the fourth and fifth rounds. Harrell was nabbed by Detroit in the seventh round. Last year, the center fielder was drafted by the club in 31st round but chose to return for his senior season.
All four will try to re-channel their focus as No. 2 national seed Vanderbilt hosts Louisville in a NCAA Super Regional, which begins Saturday at Hawkins Field.
“Well-deserving kids. They’ve all worked very hard for what they’ve gotten,” coach Tim Corbin said after practice Friday. “It is an awkward time though [for the draft]. I’m not really in agreement with it. I think it is difficult because obviously for them there is some thought and anxiety associated with this day. At the same time, their mindset is on winning games and taking this thing a step further.”
Gregor, a 6-foot-3, 220-pounder, might have gone a little higher than most draft analysts expected.
The Astros took him with the first pick of the fourth round. Though Gregor has only three home runs this year, he is hitting .314 with 14 doubles and 47 RBIs.
“I was shocked. I didn’t have any idea I would be picked by the Astros,” Gregor said after practice Friday. “I’m at a loss for words. It is a dream come true for me. We got a long way to go. We have to wrap up our season here. But, obviously, I’m very excited about that. I’m really, really happy right now. I’m honored the Astros value me as a player.”
Kemp, the Southeastern Conference player of the year, also was elated to hear the news when director of operations Drew Fann relayed the word to him during practice. The 5-foot-6, 160-pounder was drafted to open the fifth round.
He leads the Commodores with a .398 batting average, 64 runs scored and 32 stolen bases.
After base running drills ended Friday, Kemp celebrated by jumping on the shoulders of Gregor, his current and future teammate.
“It was a really exciting moment,” Kemp said. “All the hard work you put in finally paid off. I’m one blessed kid. I give all the glory to God. He has been there for me through anything and my mom as well. The support from my teammates and family. … I can’t thank those people enough.”
About an hour after the team had left Hawkins Field, Harrell was also drafted.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder is hitting .313, has a slugging percentage of .535, leads the team with 12 home runs and is second in the SEC with 66 RBIs. The Tigers have used seven draft picks on Vanderbilt players in the last three years.
The 40-round draft concludes on Saturday with the final 30 rounds.
“The biggest thing for me is it is just a relief,” Ziomek said. “It is something you are thinking about in the back of your mind for a while during the year and leading up to this point. Now, that it is over with it feels really good. I know I can focus my attention on [pitching Saturday] night. I’m excited for it. We came here for a reason and that is to go back to Omaha and get this thing taken care of.”