Bligh’s big day
Mavs OF drafted in ninth round by Pirates
His first experience with the Major League Baseball draft was something he’ll never forget.
Now Bligh Madris has to decide his next move.
The Colorado Mesa right fielder was drafted Tuesday in the ninth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and plans to take a couple of days to decide whether to accept the Pirates’ offer and start his professional career or return to CMU for his junior year and see if he can improve his draft position.
“I’ve still got some thinking to do,” Madris said Tuesday afternoon once his mother, Kim, dashed out to buy a Pirates cap and some of the celebration from the neighborhood draft watch party at teammate Nick Cardinale’s house in Las Vegas died down.
The day was a little nerve-wracking as he waited for his phone to ring.
“I was supposed to go in the eighth round to Boston and they chose another kid over me,” Madris said. “I was sitting there thinking it might be Boston and this might be it and it didn’t happen, then Pittsburgh called right after and they offered me.”
After talking to his advisor, Madris said he made the Pirates a counteroffer, which they accepted.
“We came up with a good counter offer and decided we’d throw the bait out there and see if they’d buy it and they did,” Madris said. “If I sign I’ll go to the West Virginia Black Bears (of the New York Penn League, the Pirates’ short-season Class A affiliate) after I go to Pirate City.”
Pirate City is the club’s spring training facility in Bradenton, Florida. It’s a facility CMU coach Chris Hanks is familiar with, attending the team’s “think tank” two of the past three winters. Hanks said if Madris does sign, it should be a smooth transition from CMU’s program to Pittsburgh’s way of doing things.
“It’s my belief that they have the best thing going in terms of a minor league system in Major League Baseball,” Hanks said. “The Pirates’ scout saw him at Regis and then they sent a cross-checker to Grand Prairie, and it was nice having a conversation with those guys that was deeper than just who is this kid, what is he. We were having a conversation with an organization whose philosophies are similar in everything they’re doing.
“That’s what I told the scouts, if you go on this kid it’s going to be a seamless transition; he’ll be able to buy into everything they’re about, he’ll understand it.”
Hanks and Madris talked throughout the day, and Hanks said the Mavs will support Madris if he decides to sign, but if he wants to return to school, will help him fine-tune his game, get bigger and stronger and improve his draft standing next year.
Being drafted by Pittsburgh didn’t come out of the blue.
“I had talked to them a lot, they came to Denver and sat down with me at the hotel (during the Mavs’ series at Regis), had me fill out paperwork for them,” Madris said. “They liked the person I am and the player I was and the player I can become.”
The 268th pick carried a slot value of a $142,700 signing bonus, although Madris didn’t say what the sides agreed upon, but did say the cost of him finishing his degree would be in the contract.
Along with his family, several friends were at Cardinale’s house and Madris was constantly hearing from his teammates after his name was called. He’s the highest CMU draft pick since pitcher Tom Franek was a fifth-round pick of Philadelphia in 1993.
“Some of them? How about all of them,” he said with a laugh. “It was a great experience. It was nerve-wracking, I was uptight all day, pretty serious, but once it happened ... it worked out. I’m looking forward to enjoying this with my family. They say it’s an unforgettable experience and it has been so far. I want to keep making it that way.”
Chipola’s charge continues: Jeff Johnson laughed that he should have written his own signing bonus into those grant-in-aid forms the Indians signed.
The second day of the draft added to the whirlwind couple of weeks in Marianna, Florida, for the 2017 Alpine Bank Junior College World Series champions, with three more players drafted. On Monday, first baseman Reynaldo Rivera was taken in the second round by Detroit, with left-handed pitcher Evan Steele going to Kansas City in the Compensation B round.
Tuesday, third baseman Andrew Bechtold went in the fifth round to Minnesota, second baseman and World Series MVP Jose Caballero was drafted in the seventh round by Arizona, and two picks later, right-handed pitcher Bowden Francis was taken by Milwaukee.
He hopes shortstop Trey Dawson and outfielder Edmond Americaan get picked up today.
“I’m really proud for those guys, but what I’m really proud of is, it’s tough to get them to play together when the top players, the entire season they’re looking forward to the draft and they’ve got scouts calling and aggravating them,” Johnson said. “I’m proud of the kids and the way they handled it.”
Several other players with ties to the JUCO World Series were taken Tuesday — pitcher Troy Bacon, who led Santa Fe (Florida) to the 2016 tournament, was taken in the fourth round by Atlanta; Max Roberts, a left-handed pitcher from Wabash Valley, went in the seventh round to Seattle; Andrew Gist, who pitched for Walters State (Tennessee) in the 2015 tournament before signing with the University of Georgia, went in the ninth round to Tampa Bay; and Daniel Tillo, a left-handed pitcher at Iowa Western, went in the third round to Kansas City.
Tillo started his career at Kentucky but transferred to Iowa Western this year, and was slated to go to Arkansas next season.
The players who were drafted by Kansas City, Arizona and Milwaukee could all end up playing at Suplizio Field this summer if they’re assigned to Pioneer League teams.
“We had four guys from the state of Florida (junior colleges) go in the first two rounds,” Johnson said. “Junior college baseball is coming back again and this is only going to help it. The exposure is good for us and it’s good for junior college baseball.”