Jacob Rhame waited a little longer than he’d hoped to hear his name called during the second day of baseball’s First-Year Player Draft on Friday afternoon.
When the 184th pick midway through the sixth round came around, he finally heard what the Rhame household had been waiting for. The Los Angeles Dodgers selected him with their sixth pick of the draft, making him the first former Guyer athlete to be drafted by a professional sports team.
Rhame, a 2011 Guyer graduate, pitched for Grayson College last season after beginning his college career at Oklahoma.
“I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” said Rhame, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound right-handed pitcher. “I’m pretty excited. After the fifth round went by, I didn’t think my name was going to come up. My name came out and everyone in my house went a little crazy. It was awesome.”
As awesome as it might have been, Rhame still isn’t sure he’ll be heading to the Dodgers organization this summer or heading to Texas State in the fall after signing with the Bobcats out of Grayson.
Rhame said one option might be going to Alaska to play in the famed collegiate league this summer and try to get re-evaluated by the Dodgers to get a better financial offer.
Slot money assigned by the commissioner’s office for the Dodgers’ sixth pick is $229,300, according to Baseball America. The Dodgers have until Aug. 15 to sign Rhame, unless he enrolls in a four-year college prior to that date.
“I’m pretty excited about it, yeah, but it’s not exactly what I’m looking for,” Rhame said. “It’s still not set in stone that I take this. I might go to Alaska and come back and see if they offer more. It’s still up in the air.”
If Rhame decides to go to Texas State, it would be his third college in as many seasons. He signed with Oklahoma out of high school before pitching just 10 innings as a freshman. At that point, he left the Sooners, went the junior college route and excelled at Grayson in 2013.
Rhame, who will be a junior, could enter the draft again after playing the 2014 season with Texas State.
Rhame went 7-3 in 14 starts with the Vikings with a 1.85 ERA in 87 1/3 innings and said the move to the junior college ranks did a lot for him as a pitcher.
“Leaving OU was a huge motivation thing for me,” Rhame said. “I realized not everything would be given to me. I think it’s made me better to know that I have to go out there and earn everything.”
Rhame has transformed his body and his game since leaving Oklahoma and as a result saw increased velocity and better performances with the Vikings. In predraft workouts for major league teams, Rhame was throwing fastballs in the upper 90s to go along with a solid curveball and changeup.
“My velocity just went up this season, and I got in better shape and just got better overall,” said Rhame, who drew the most interest from the Dodgers, Tigers, Rangers, Blue Jays and Royals. “I went to these predraft workouts and just did well and it made it better for me.”
Johnny Kinzy, who coached Rhame at Guyer for four years, said Rhame was no different than many high school pitchers transitioning to a major college program, and the stops he has made have turned him into a high-quality pitcher.
“He always worked hard for us,” Kinzy said. “He was a big pitcher for three years for us, but his arm allowed him to get to OU and he just realized, like a lot of high school players, how much change there is to a major Division I program from high school.
“I think it allowed him to grow and realize the JUCO route would be good for him and allow him a chance to get into the major league draft. After the year he had at Grayson, it definitely worked out for the best for him.”
Now Rhame must decide what the next year will entail — time in San Marcos or on the road in the Dodgers’ farm system. Regardless of his decision, Rhame said he’s excited about the chance to pitch for the Bobcats back at the Division I level.
“They’re giving me my space,” Rhame said of Texas State. “I love San Marcos and I’m real excited about it. Either way, it’s a great choice. I’m not worried about signing or not signing, just doing what’s best for me. I can always go there and get even better and then go back to the draft next year.”
Rhame will always have the distinction of being the first student from Guyer, which opened in 2005, to be drafted in any professional sport, and a player Kinzy will remember fondly.
As a senior at Guyer, Rhame went 6-2 in the regular season with a 1.57 ERA and 82 strikeouts with just 15 walks.
“It’s quite an honor that he ends up being the very first player in Guyer baseball to be drafted,” Kinzy said. “That’s a huge deal in my eyes. I’m proud of him and for him. It didn’t just happen. He always had a good arm, but he’s made himself so much better with his work ethic and commitment.
“The one thing with Jacob I’ll always remember was it didn’t matter who the opponent was, you knew you had a chance to win a baseball game because Jacob would keep you in it. People weren’t going to score many runs off him.”