Senior right-handed pitcher Todd Eaton became the second Saluki and 11th Missouri Valley Conference pitcher selected in the 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Eaton was selected 1,023rd overall by the Kansas City Royals in the 34th round.
“It’s awesome,” Eaton said. “It’s a childhood dream obviously. This is the first time it’s happened and it’s pretty cool. It feels pretty good.”
Eaton was a starter his freshman year before moving to the bullpen. There, he finished tied for second with Al Levine in Saluki history with 19 saves before being named a starting pitcher once again his senior year.
“The whole deal with starter to closer and back to starter had to do with arm action and mechanics,” coach Ken Henderson said. “I think he would have gotten drafted, I don’t think anything would have changed if we left him in the closer’s role.”
Eaton finished his senior season with a record of 3-3 and a 4.10 ERA. He was named the MVC Pitcher of the Week after throwing 10 complete innings against Illinois State University April 26.
Henderson said Eaton would have been selected in last year’s draft if he didn’t intend on staying for his senior year. Henderson said the draft is too hard to determine ahead of time, but he knew Eaton had the skills to play professionally.
“Obviously, anybody who gets drafted is extremely talented,” Henderson said. “I think to be drafted in the 34th round is an unbelievable honor, but part of that is the fact that he was a senior and had no bargaining power.”
Eaton’s father, Mike Eaton, and his mother, Jane Eaton, said they noticed professional talent from Todd when he first played in college.
“He came from a very small school,” Mike said. “We were wondering if he could even play at the Division I level and once he got there and had a little bit of success, we felt he had a chance because he was playing with people who moved on.”
Mike and Todd were on a golf course when he got the call for his turn to move on.
“We were playing a tournament and I was in the foursome ahead of him,” Mike said. “I see him waving and he was on the phone so I knew he got a call. It was very exciting, I drove back to confirm it with him, it was a very neat thing.”
Todd said he has no idea what he would do if he didn’t get drafted, but he wasn’t only happy for himself.
He said he likes that 12 MVC pitchers and 11 MVC hitters were drafted because he will be able to play against familiar faces.
“I’m sure we’ll have a decent conversation before or after the games,” Eaton said. “It’s pretty cool playing against people you’re familiar with.”
Todd’s family is from the St. Louis area, but said they are going to have to be Royals fans from now on.
“We just want to thank SIU and the coaching staff for giving Todd the opportunity,” Jane said. “We’re very thankful for that.”
Aaron Graff can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, @Aarongraff_DE or (815)-483-3781.