By Kyle LoJacono
Millions of kids dream of playing professional baseball and two local talents took a step toward completing that fantasy during the MLB draft June 4 to 6. They have until July 13 to sign.
D-backs take Wharton grad Derrick Stultz
Wharton baseball coach Scott Hoffman remembers Derrick Stultz as one of the most intense players he’s worked with.
“He was all business,” Hoffman said. “He didn’t speak before games. The guys would ask me if he was OK because he’d sit in locker room in the dark. He used that intimidation factor because he was a guy who threw 93/94 miles an hour. All our guys tried to follow his footsteps.”
Stultz’s tracks now lead to the major leagues as the Arizona Diamondbacks made the Wharton graduate the 453rd pick in the draft June 5, taking him in the 14th round. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder has a year of eligibility remaining after losing a pair of seasons to injury, but his mother, Gretchen, said he is likely to sign as he graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) last month.
Stultz could only be reached via text message because he left for Arizona June 7 to meet with the Diamondbacks, but wrote that he is excited for the chance to be a professional player.
Stultz, who attended Gaither High before transferring for his senior year, is the second of Hoffman’s Wildcats to be drafted in his nine years with Wharton following pitcher Andrew Virgili, who signed with the Chicago White Sox after being taken in the 12th round.
In his senior season at USF, Stultz went 9-1 with a 3.29 ERA and 60 strikeouts to 23 walks in 87.2 innings. He earned second team All-Big East honors and led the conference with nine wins.
Stultz’s work on the mound as a senior came after missing 2010 and 2011 following shoulder surgery in May 2009 to fix a torn labrum. Gretchen said the injury came “out of nowhere” after he started most of his freshman and sophomore years.
“The doctors made him go very slow in his rehab,” Gretchen said. “He told him he didn’t want to see him come back in his training room once he cleared him. I think that’s why he got drafted.”
It is the second time Stultz has been drafted. He was selected in the 38th round by the Boston Red Sox in 2007 but stayed in school.
“It’s a perfect situation for him because he improved his draft status,” Hoffman said. “In high school they wanted him to get more seasoning. Up until his senior year of high school he only had a few innings pitched. We used him quite a bit, then he went and started in college. I think that matured him as a pitcher.”
Thrailkill picked by the Rangers
St. Petersburg College (SPC) sophomore and Gaither High graduate Austen Thrailkill was taken in the 26th round with the 816th pick by the Texas Rangers on June 6.
“It’s a dream come true,” Thrailkill said. “It’s something that every kid who grows up playing baseball wants. The fact that I’m experiencing it; I can’t put it into words. … I don’t think it’s completely sunk in yet.”
Thrailkill learned he was drafted while at work. The Rangers called him that morning, so he was monitoring their selections.
“I thought I’d get the call before they’d pick me, so when I saw them coming up soon in the 26th round I put my phone down and got back to working,” Thrailkill said. “Then I got a text from my coach, Ryan Beckman, congratulating me. As I was checking my phone for the draft, the Rangers called.”
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound left-handed pitcher, who uses a fastball, curveball and changeup, picked up the game at age 4 and started developing his craft in the Lutz Little League.
Thrailkill also played first base and outfield as a freshman at Gaither, but moved to the mound fulltime for his final three years. He compiled an 8-2 record with a 4.67 ERA, 49 strikeouts and 71 walks in 63 innings as a Cowboy.
Thrailkill attended Quincy University in Illinois for his freshman season, but returned to walk on at SPC after having a “hard time” up north.
“I was happy to come back, but I was worried because I didn’t have a school to go play at right away,” Thrailkill said. “It was a last minute decision to go to St. Pete, but I’m glad I did.”
Gaither baseball coach Frank Permuy said he “lost track” of Thrailkill, but his former pupil started working out with the Cowboys a few weeks ago.
“He’s always had the ability,” Permuy said. “He had a little problem with the control, but I think he’s ironed out. He’s a lot bigger and stronger. He’s a man now. I think he’s going to contribute in college if he stays or to (Texas) if he signs.”
Thrailkill is eligible for the draft because SPC is a two-year school but has the option of walking on at the University of South Florida or signing a scholarship with the University of Central Florida.
“I had some offers to four-year schools out of state, but those two are the ones I’ve narrowed it down to if I do stay in school,” Thrailkill said. He added, “I love baseball, and I want to play as long as I can.”