HATTIESBURG – The first four Southern Miss baseball players to be selected in the MLB Draft all decided not to sign with the organizations that first selected them.
Frank Baker turned down the Giants in 1966, Ed Assaf turned down the Royals in 1967, and Wilson Plunkett turned down the Angels in 1973. Pro Football Hall of Fame punter Ray Guy turned down contracts from the Astros in 1971 and the Braves in 1972 before finally signing with the Reds in 1973, the same year he was drafted by the Oakland Raiders.
Some 49 years after Guy chose the grill over the diamond, Southern Miss’s MLB draft results are trending firmly in the opposite direction.
Before the pitchers Dalton RogersTyler Stuart, Landon Harper, Ben Ethridge and Garrett Ramsey were selected in the 2022 MLB Draft, each of the last 23 USM players to hear their name had signed — a sample that includes 14 players who were drafted with college eligibility remaining.
This figure, however, is somewhat subject to interpretation.
Technically, Austin Davis is the last Golden Eagle not to sign after being selected by an MLB organization. He was taken in the 31st round of the 2012 draft by Boston.
Southern Miss fans will remember Davis as the quarterback who led USM to an American Conference championship in 2011, throwing four touchdown passes against Houston in the title game.
A standout high school pitcher, Davis never played in a competitive baseball game for the Golden Eagles, playing in the 2007 fall season before deciding to focus on football.
Excluding Davis from the sample would mean the last 27 Golden Eagles drafted signed, dating back to 2010. That year, pitcher Todd McInnis went in the 32nd round to the Oakland Athletics before deciding to return.
A year later, the St. Louis Cardinals took him in the 25th round.
MISS SOUTH BASEBALL IN THE 2022 MLB DRAFT:Track selected Golden Eagles
It must be recognized that the landscape project has changed. For one thing, there’s only one draft every year – not three, as was the case when Baker was first drafted in 1966. Draft bonus pools now routinely top 10 million. dollars for teams with top picks, positioning MLB franchises to provide strong economic incentives for college players. .
Still, the recent streak of Golden Eagles initially drafted to the pro ranks falls short of the college baseball norm.
Using the number that removes Davis from the equation, Southern Miss’s 27 direct draft signers mark the second highest among Sun Belt institutions. Only James Madison compares, with 31 straight rookies to start.
Of Mississippi’s other five Division I baseball programs, none come close to that mark.
Of the other 63 programs that have qualified for the 2022 NCAA Tournament, five have longer streaks. Only East Carolina’s 29 consecutive signers top the Southern Miss mark among the 16 teams that have qualified for the super regional round.
History is not necessarily predictive. Any college player who chooses to go back to school and put off their chance at the pros is an outlier these days.
Contact Southern Miss writer David Eckert at [email protected] or on Twitter @davideckert98.