• Tonight at 7, Round 1 and Compensation round
• June 5, noon ET, Rounds 2-15
• June 6, noon ET, Rounds 16-40
Like many of his collegiate peers, Jacksonville State baseball player Sam Eberle will be sitting on pins and needs.
The former three-sport athlete at Notre Dame High is awaiting major league baseball's annual player draft which starts with the first round tonight. But on Tuesday, Eberle will be taking an exit evaluation exam, the last step between him and a college diploma. The proctor for his test will have his cell phone, though, and has already been alerted that he might be getting a call from a major league team wanting to draft him.
"I haven't heard directly from any scouts in a while," he said. "The coaches told me a lot of guys had come in asking questions. Both of them feel certain it's going to happen but I don't know when or which day."
The last contact he had with anyone from the majors was a San Francisco Giants scout.
"He asked me if I was taken as a catcher would that be OK," Eberle recalled. "I said, sure, as long as I get drafted. I'll play wherever I get put."
Eberle, without all of the acclaim, seems a sure-fire draft candidate especially after leading Jacksonville State this year with a .359 average while splitting time between catching, third base, left field and center field. A four-year starter -- the fewest games he played in any season was 48 his freshman year -- Eberle hit .350 or better his junior and senior years and .305 as a freshman. As a sophomore he hit .277 but also led the team with 18 home runs.
"Sam is probably the best all-round athlete I ever coached," said former Notre Dame coach Brian Hitchcox, the former pro player who now coaches at Ooltewah. "He's big, strong and fast with a good arm. He had all the tools even then that college coaches and pro scouts look for from Day 1. He was just a natural athlete.
"College coaches would ask me where he would play best and my answer was 'The batter's box.' I told guys that I thought he was a third baseman, although he played some shortstop and caught for us a lot. At Jax State he caught, played third base and even played some in center, and he has always hit. That's what he's done at Jacksonville."
A year ago he played every position but second, shortstop and pitcher. He also filled out numerous questionnaires last year but went undrafted.
"His coach, who's a former pro scout, told me he'd be getting a call," Hitchcox said.
"I hope so," Eberle said. "I have to take this test and my degree is in business management but I have no idea what I want to do with it."
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...