Junior right-handed pitcher Sam Coonrod likely won’t return for his senior season, but that doesn’t mean he will stop playing baseball.
Coonrod was picked by the San Francisco Giants in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft Friday and plans on signing a contract.
He was ranked 103rd of all prospects by MLB.com and was selected 148th overall. He finished his junior season with a record of 2-6 and a 2.87 ERA.
“I’m very blessed,” Coonrod said. “This all happens with god.”
Coach Ken Henderson said it will be a huge loss to the program, but he knew it was coming.
“We planned and prepared for this day with our recruiting throughout the year,” Henderson said. “You just don’t run out and replace his ability and talent, it’s not like those kind of guy’s are out running around everywhere.”
SIU was the only Division I university to offer Coonrod a scholarship coming out of Carrollton High School, which has an enrollment of less than 300 students.
“Around here it’s tough to get recognized,” Joey Coonrod, Sam Coonrod’s younger brother, said. “You don’t really know too many people who can give you an opportunity.”
MLB.com said Joey, of Kaskaskia Community College, also had a chance of getting drafted this year. Sam said he thinks it didn’t happen this year because his brother redshirted his sophomore season.
“He definitely has the talent in the future to get drafted,” Sam said. “He is a better athlete than I ever was.”
Sam said his hometown has never had an athlete play professionally, and there was a lot of hype going into the draft. He said after he was picked, it got even bigger.
“It’s a pretty small town,” Joey said. “Everybody knew about it, everybody was watching. When we’re here we’ll go somewhere and everybody is always stopping and talking to him.”
Sam won his last collegiate start at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament against University of Evansville junior left-handed pitcher Kyle Freeland. Freeland was drafted eighth overall by the Colorado Rockies.
“(Freeland) deserved it,” Sam said. “He’s better than me at this point. Right now he’s the better pitcher. I’m going to do everything I can to become the best that I can be.”
Sam said most of his Saluki teammates texted him as soon as they heard the news.
“I haven’t been able to look at all the messages,” Sam said. “I’ve gotten so many, I couldn’t tell you how many I’ve gotten.”
Henderson said almost every big league club came in to talk to Sam during the year and when a younger player is ready to move on he will help them with whatever they need.
“Even though he was a junior, he was ready to go out,” Henderson said. “He’s physically ready to go out. He’s mentally ready to go out. Maturity wise, he’s ready. It’s time. As much as I’d love to have him back, it’s time he goes to the next level and I supported that from day one.”