Players competing in the IMG Wood Bat League have been training here for almost a week now. With the first games being played tomorrow, the draft is complete and the six teams are now finalized. The draft process was grueling for coaches and players alike, but after it was all said and done, I got to sit down with the manager of Conquistadors Jason Elias to talk about the past week.
The draft process started with three days of evaluations that led up to the draft late Wednesday evening. The first day was all about the pitchers and catchers. The managers wanted to see the pitchers arms and evaluate their depth at that position. They also wanted to see how the catchers received the pitches. Day two was just the opposite as the swing of the bat was the only thing evaluated. "Batting practice sessions were used to see how these kids could swing the bat, but day three was the fun one for me." Jason Elias was right about day three as I got to see it first hand and I can tell you it was a sight to see. Day three consisted of coach pitched games. The players really got into the intensity of the game as they were sporting their new IMG Uniforms. Jason said, "As managers, we really love these coach pitched games because we can see how the guys play in a game situation. It gives them ample opportunities in different kinds of situations so we can see how they react." After three tough days of evaluation, it was finally time for the big moment- The IMG Wood Bat League Draft.
The draft took place in the conference room at the Athletic & Personal Development program Wednesday at 4:30P.M. With the managers focused on forming the best team possible, the mood was intense right from the beginning. The first phase took all the catchers off the board as they paired the top six catchers with the bottom six catchers. Managers then drew from a hat to get their picks. After the catchers were off the board, managers again drew from the hat to get their position 1-6 in the draft. From there, a snake draft was implemented as anyone on the board was fair game.
Every manager had their own unique style of picking players, but Jason Elias went with a simple and effective style that proved to work for him. "I decided to use the best available format. I created a list of fifty guys that I wanted and I would draft the best guy available when it was my turn." Often times during drafts, frustration occurs as a manager's next pick will get taken right before their turn. Lucky for the young Conquistador manager, that didn't happen this year. "I was lucky this year. I stole Manager Paciorek's next pick five or six times throughout the draft. Usually I am on the other end of that kind of situation." After close to three hours of discussion and strenuous decision making, the draft was complete and the six teams were set with fifteen players each.
The top six picks were well deserved in this years Wood Bat League. Below is a little recap of the top six.
1. HURRICANES- Sawyer Wilson was the number one pick in this years draft. He hails from Tarpon Springs, FL and will be a 2011 graduate of East Lake High School. He is a lefty handed pitcher and outfielder.
2. MANATEES- Bex Trout went second in the draft. The left handed pitcher and outfielder comes to IMG all the way from Overland Park, KS.
3. LIGHTNING- Cas Dean was up next as the lightning snagged this talented right handed pitcher and shortstop. Dean is from Lakewood Ranch, FL.
4. MARAUDERS- Philip Dilandro was the fourth pitcher and fourth pick in this years draft. The scrappy left-hander doesn't travel far as Bradenton,FL is his hometown.
5. CONQUISTADORS- Tony Rivera is another left handed pitcher and outfielder selected in this draft. Manager Jason Elias did not go wrong picking this young man from Evans, Georgia.
6. SEADOGS- Travis Connolly was the last to be snagged in the first round. Coming from Coral Springs, FL, the right handed pitcher and 1st baseman will be a huge game-changer for the Seadogs.
The IMG Wood Bat League is set to start tomorrow with exciting games, stories, and more all summer long!