By JOEL COLEMAN
With a Super Regional against Arizona looming, this week was already going to be stressful for Mississippi State head coach John Cohen. Beginning Thursday though, MSU’s eighth-year leader has a little extra to worry about.
Thursday is the first day of the Major League Baseball Draft. The event will run through Saturday and will likely see several current Bulldogs and MSU commits get their names called.
All of the uncertainty provides anxious moments for Cohen.
“I’ve never traded on the New York Stock Exchange, but I’d imagine it’s very similar to that,” Cohen said. “You gather as much information as you can because we have a recruiting class that is hanging in the balance. We have our juniors and draft eligibles that are hanging in the balance. I think Mississippi State fans still want us to win next year no matter what happens. I assume as a stock trader, you are absolutely responsible to your clients and customers. Our customers are Mississippi State and the players we represent.
“It’s the difference between winning an SEC championship and finishing in last place. It’s something that keeps you up at night.”
If Cohen had his way, the MLB Draft wouldn’t be timed where it is. MSU and 15 other teams are gearing up to play Super Regionals this weekend with berths in the College World Series on the line.
“I think it’s a little absurd,” Cohen said. “I’d just love to see the look on (Alabama head football coach Nick Saban’s) face or (Duke head basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski’s) face if someone walked up to them and said, ‘We have this great idea. When you get into the NCAA Tournament, in not the first round, but the second round, we think we’re going to place the draft right in the middle of your second round tournament game.’
“It’s not good for our players, it’s not good for our fans and it’s not good for college baseball. I just think it’s unfortunate that they should have that distraction. You shouldn’t put that on any college athlete.”
With so much already on the plates of the Bulldogs, the draft adds another layer. Dakota Hudson, who’ll likely start this Friday’s opener of the Starkville Super Regional, will take a break from those preparations on Thursday night to watch the first round of the draft with his family. Hudson will almost certainly become the 13th player in MSU history to get drafted in the first round.
“I guarantee you I’ll have a grin ear to ear,” Hudson said his reaction will be when his name is called.
Austin Sexton, who’ll likely start on Saturday, could get drafted in the later rounds. As he prepares himself to face Arizona this weekend, he admits he has to battle thoughts of his professional future.
“To say you’re not thinking about it, anyone that tells you that is lying because everyone is thinking about it,” Sexton said. “You just try not to think about it too much.”
In all, between current players and commits, Cohen estimates his eyes will be on about 20 guys the next few days. He hopes the guys on his current roster that end up getting drafted do a good job of handling everything that comes with being selected.
“Kids respond to it differently,” Cohen said. “I feel like in 2013, when (Hunter Renfroe) was taken 13th overall, I think he was so relieved.
“How did Adam Frazier respond? The next day he went 6-for-6 in a Super Regional. You put a lot of pressure on yourself. You have to block it out, but when the whole world is sending you text messages and Tweeting at you, it’s hard for those kids to block it out. I think our kids do a good job of blocking out a lot of the periphery, but when you are talking about your professional future, that’s difficult.”
While he won’t know for sure until it’s all said and done, Cohen thinks his draft-eligible players are as prepared as possible for what awaits them. Even with the showdown against Arizona in the backdrop, Cohen trusts how his guys are handling their business.
“I think our kids have a great attitude about it,” Cohen said. “They’re excited about it. Who wouldn’t be? Every child grows up wanting to play professional baseball.”