Just a couple of days after the MLB Draft, Bobby Ison knew his intentions.
The junior outfielder out of Charleston Southern University was chosen by the Cleveland Indians in the 21st round, and although he’d yet to hear their offer, he was confident they’d agree to a deal.
On Friday, Ison became a professional baseball player. Though terms weren’t revealed, he is officially a part of the Indians organization.
The draft experience was eye-opening and, at times, alarming. In his contact with one team, the San Diego Padres, he received an offer he felt was so bottom-of-the-barrel, Ison could hardly believe what he’d heard.
"I got an offer from them in the 11th round and they undervalued me big-time," he said last week. "It was silly. They just expected I’d take it. Then I got the text from the Indians to go get some at-bats in Arizona for a few weeks, and I was ready. "
Ison ‘s southern manners (he hails from Goose Creek, South Carolina) are mixed with a fire in his gut. He expressed his "respect" for the Padres need to do business, but he’s also fully confident in his own potential , particularly after a season in which he hit .396, with 34 RBI, and just six strikeouts in 230 at-bats. He’s also a two time all-Big South selection and his 91 hits are the single season record in CSU history.
"Money’s not the whole point. But you do feel you’re worth something."
The draft is a beginning, but it’s also the end of a long process that’s started many years earlier, when scouts begin to show up to high school games with clipboards. Once a player decides to go pro, his life is already changed. The game is no longer just for fun, but where they hope to make a living. Ison watched his own friends experience similar draft to sign shocks, including one friend who’d been a tenth round pick and, according to him, only saw $1,000 in bonus money.
What he and many other draftees come to realize is how important where you go to school is. Despite consistently posting solid numbers his entire college career, Ison believes that attending a mid-major school influenced his slot.
"Had I played SEC, I would’ve been drafted ninth round."
Despite the headaches, he’s only looking forward, excitedly awaiting an official assignment, and credits many for a hand in his getting this far. One coach was especially influential.
"I had a great group of coaches that really pushed me. [Assistant Coach] Jon Coutlangis really taught me the most as far as the mental side. He’d say, ‘Play as long as you can.’ Meaning it doesn’t matter what inning it is, or how far you’re trailing the other team. Play the game the same, and let the rest fall. I took that to heart. Regardless of whether we’re down ten runs, I’m going to keep playing my hardest. I don’t care what the score is."