Share this article

print logo

From telegrams to stadium announcements, the Bisons recall their draft day

Bobby Meacham was playing in a semi-pro league in Alberta, Canada in 1978 when he received a telegram from the Chicago White Sox. That's how he learned he had been drafted in the 14th round of Major League Baseball's draft.

Of course, Meacham had already told teams he wasn't going to sign a contract. He was committed to play college baseball at San Diego State University.

Three years later, he knew he was going to be a first-round draft pick and was taken eighth overall by St. Louis. He learned that news via telephone.

"The day wasn't suspenseful or anything like that," said the Buffalo Bisons manager.

But in 2017 there was plenty of suspense and nerves for baseball players across the United States and Canada as Major League Baseball held its 40-round draft the last three days. The draft day experience may be a media event these days, but each player still has a unique, and memorable, draft day story, including those on the Triple-A Bisons, knocking on the door of the Major Leagues.

In 2012, infielder Jason Leblebijian didn't have a great junior season at Bradley and his proverbial "draft stock" fell. It was in the 23rd round when he got a call from the Toronto Blue Jays, saying they were interested in drafting him.

"I remember my wife, who was my girlfriend and the time, my brother and a good buddy of mine were at the house hanging out," Leblebijian said. "The Blue Jays were one team I never even talked to. I had no idea the were even watching me or anything. ... They called me in the 23rd and we turned on the computer and then we ended up hearing it in the 25th round. It was very cool. You work all those years to get that opportunity and it is definitely a blessing."

John Stilson described it as a blessing, but he had a few more people around to celebrate his draft day -- about 6,000 people at Olsen Field in College Station.

The relief pitcher didn't know what was going to happen in the 2011 draft as he was recovering from a torn labrum. But as his Texas A&M team was in the regional round of the College World Series, he got the news.

"We were in a regional against Arizona to clinch to go to the super regional. We were in a game so I wasn't able to check my phone. No one could call me," Stilson said. "And they made an announcement that I had been selected in the third round by the Blue Jays in front of all the fans and everybody. That was kind of cool. I got a standing ovation and the game kind of stopped for a minute. I was excited, especially with the situation with my shoulder. It was just a real blessing and to be able to share with everyone who had backed me up the last couple of years was really cool."

A number of players with Western New York ties were drafted this week, including Buffalo News Player of the Year Leugim Castillo from Lancaster, who was chosen in the 17th round by the Milwaukee Brewers.

Milwaukee Brewers select Lancaster's Castillo

Logan Harasta from the University at Buffalo went in the seventh round to the San Francisco Giants; Kyle Zurak who went to Williamsville North and plays at Radford University, went in the eighth round to the New York Yankees;  St. Bonaventure's Aaron Phillips, who went to Cleveland Hill, was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the ninth round; Niagara's Daniel Procopto went in the 10th round to the Los Angeles Angels; St. Bonaventure shortstop Cole Peterson went in the 13th round to the Detroit Tigers and Niagara's Tanner Kirwer went in the 20th round to Toronto.

Low draft choices often have a more challenging road in pro baseball and Leblebijian knows all about that. He played four years of Class-A ball before playing with Double-A New Hampshire last season. This year, his rookie season at Triple-A, he's hitting a hot streak. Entering Wednesday's games he was tied for first among International League batters with a .310 batting average and is tied for fifth in RBI (41), fifth in on-base percentage (.382) and seventh in slugging (.515).

Being drafted in the 25th round provided Leblebijian with an extra dose of motivation and the advice of a pro scout helped shaped his approach to the game.

"I grew up around a guy, Tom Barnard, who was a scout with the Pirates for many years so talking with him and really hearing what it would be like being a lower draft pick helped a lot," Leblebijian said. "It was definitely going to be a grind. I think knowing that from the start definitely gave me a leg up because I knew a lot of things weren't going to be handed to me. So it definitely was motivating."

And his experience shapes his advice for the players drafted this week, especially the ones who went in lower rounds.

"If you believe in yourself that you can do it, then don't cash it in," Leblebijian said. "Don’t make excuses. Don't be the guy that's like 'well, if I were able to play every day.' Prepare yourself as if you are playing every day and just be ready to go and don't look back."

"Don't ever give up," Stilson added. "Stick to it because you're time will come and you'll get your opportunity. Just make sure you're not out-worked by anybody. Be the hardest-working guy in the room because it all comes back in a good way."

There are no comments - be the first to comment