Last weekend, while covering the Ole Miss baseball team in Raleigh, N.C., I had a chance to catchup with the former Rebel for a draft preview story that ran in today’s Oxford EAGLE. Yarbrough ended up being drafted in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (he’s currently hitting .311 through 54 games for the Class A-Advanced Inland Empire 66ers) and talked about the draft process, from not knowing who would select him to how he found out he’d been picked by the Halos.
As is typically the case, Ole Miss’ players — guys like Bobby Wahl, Mike Mayers and Stuart Turner, who are expected to be high selections this week — have all said the “right things” leading up to tomorrow’s draft. I asked Yarbrough if the cliche responses are true or if the draft is more on players minds than they let on. In his case, he said it’s always in the back of a player’s mind but it’s not something he felt like he brought onto the field with him. He added, it’s typically not something he talked about unless someone else brought it up.
Due to limited space in the paper, I wasn’t able to get all of our conversation into print. Below is the full phone interview with the former All-SEC second baseman:
Q: What was the experience of being drafted like? Did it work out like you thought it would?
A: It pretty much did.. I had no idea it was going to be the Angels. I talked to most of the teams in pre-draft meetings, which I’m sure the top prospect guys like Bobby and Mike have done the same thing. I had a certain idea of the team I thought I was going to go to and then when the draft day came they didn’t really talk to me as much as I thought and then the Angels did. As far as that, that’s not what I was expecting.
Q: What was it all like, especially down the stretch?
A: The process goes about how you’d think it would. It’s definitely a whirlwind. They’re in a regional this year, too. I was playing in a game for Ole Miss one day and the next day the season was over and I had been drafted by the Angels. I’m sure the guys that are thinking they’re going to get drafted this year are completely locked in to winning games in the regional. The draft is definitely an after thought until after the season is over.
Q: Ok, because I was wondering if that’s just lip service or accurate when you’re saying the ‘right things’:
A: I don’t think I’d say it’s a distraction at all but obviously getting drafted and getting started towards a Big League career is everyone’s goal, especially those who play at a huge D1 school. It’s something that you’re thinking about but it’s never something that once you put on your cleats and you’re getting ready to go out to BP and you’re trying to get to a super regional, it’s definitely out of your mind at that point. In between games you can kind of talk to your advisor. You’re definitely thinking about it and you’re excited about the possibility of being drafted, but once you put on the uniform and you’re going through all the pre-game stuff that you have gone through for three years at Ole MIss, the draft is completely out of your mind and it’s not something that you’re thinking about during the game.
Q: Is it something where you don’t think about it until someone else brings it up?
A: Exactly. Until somebody brings it up you’re really not thinking about it. You’re anxious and hoping it goes the way you want to and you don’t slip 20 rounds later than where you wanted to go, but certainly once you start the game it’s out of your mind until somebody brings it up.
Q: What advice would you give them?
A: To be patient. Especially like last year, I talked to some teams that I thought (would pick me). Teams talk to everybody: ‘Alright, I’ve got this pick in the second round here or the fifth round here and if this person comes off the board then we’re going to take you.’ I had a few teams say that to me and some area scouts say ‘I’m really trying to push for you in this round, hopefully we can get you.’ It’s like that for everybody and it’s guaranteed at least one of those teams is going to fall through. Just be patient with the whole process and once you’re done playing and your season is over or the draft starts, you’ve done absolutely everything you can to put yourself in the best situation as possible to get picked as high as possible. It’s out of your hands at that point. Your advisor can’t call the Yankees and say ‘can you pick my guy’ at that point. … You just need to be patient with the whole process once it gets going.
Q: What were you doing when you found out you were drafted?
A: We were on the bus actually. We were able to charter a flight the day after we lost that last game so we chartered a flight and the second round started literally as we were boarding the plane. It was about an hour-and-a-half flight back to Oxford. We landed in Memphis and I got picked about 20 minutes into the drive back. I actually found out — I was looking on the tracker on my phone and it wasn’t updating very quickly — I looked up and Coach (Carl) Lafferty, who was sitting in front of me with the coaches, looked back and gave me a thumbs up so I knew it was a pretty good sign but I had no idea who I had gotten picked by until my advisor called me and congratulated me on being picked in the fourth round. I said ‘that’s great! Who’d I get picked by?’ And he said the Angels.
Q: That must have made it neat to find out while you were with your teammates?
A: It was definitely cool that I was sitting right there, as close as possible to my teammates on the bus. They all clapped. It was a cool way to get picked for sure. … That’s all my best friends. They had been my best friends for the last few years and roommates and all that stuff. It was really cool. Obviously I would have rather been on the way back to Oxford, getting ready to pack our bags for UCLA for the super regional, but at the same time it was a neat way to find out.
Q: Sometimes you hear people talk about how different pro ball is from college because it’s ‘a business’ now. What have your experiences been like so far?
A: If anything it’s looser because we play games literally every single day. We’ve had four or five days since the season started, so you kind of have to take it easier (when not on the field) because there’s something like 142 games in 155 days. With all the travel and everything, too, it’s a lot different than college ball. You don’t have to worry so much about ‘we have to win this midweek game to keep our RPI up so we qualify for the tournament.’ It’s just winning one game a day. It’s a little different, but once you put the cleats on and you’re out there on the field it’s the exact same; just giving 100 percent and trying to win every single day.
Q: Do you like the MiLB grind of playing every day?
A: I do. You get into a routine, especially for home games. You show up at the field pretty much the same time every day and you have your flips in the cage and then batting practice and then some down time in the locker room before the game. I do like it. Baseball is the only thing you have to worry about and it’s pretty nice. I’m enjoying it.
PARTING VIEW: Since we’re on the topic of this week’s MLB Draft, yesterday Ole Miss signee and current Northwest Mississippi Community College left-hander Cody Reed filmed a 10-minute video on what he has gone through, visiting several interested teams for workouts. Reed has drawn considerable interest heading into this year’s draft and has been projected by some to be in the mix as a late first-round selection. As Reed stated in the video, the potential money is likely to make his decision for him. Towards the end of the video Reed discusses the possibility of playing for the Rebels:
(June 5, 2013)