The three seniors on the West Virginia baseball team have been presented with the unique opportunity to play one more season in the Old Gold and Blue — but if opportunity knocks, they might just answer.
Kevin Brophy is one of those Mountaineer ballplayers who is currently musing his possibilities ahead of July’s MLB Draft. He saw his numbers trend upwards in his shortened senior season as he took on a bigger role as the Mountaineers’ cleanup-hitting third baseman, cranking out a .246 batting average — a big improvement over his junior year mark of .204.
“It was about proving people wrong,” he said, “and finding out that we were preseason seventh in the Big 12 lit a fire under us and we were excited to get out there and show people how good we were.”
The premature end to the season has now forced Brophy to drastically change his routine as an athlete. He and his team were originally slated to host the College of Charleston this weekend in a three-game series at Monongalia County Ballpark, but instead he is at his home in Delaware lifting weights daily in his garage.
“For like the first week or two, I was using cans of food and everything,” Brophy explained. “One of my friends had old weights and ended up giving it all to me and I’ve been able to get pretty good workouts in and actually I feel like I am in better shape now than I was when the season ended. So I’ve been lucky.”
With the opportunity to return for next season, Brophy could say he is staying in shape for his fifth-year senior season under the NCAA’s ruling on eligibility relief — but with two months until the MLB Draft, he says his future is uncertain. Adding to that uncertainty are questions about the draft itself.
According to reports, this year’s draft could be shortened to as many as five rounds from its typical 40 rounds, greatly reducing the chance of anybody getting drafted. Last season, a record eight Mountaineers were drafted, seven of whom were selected in the eighth round or later. On top of that, MLB hasn’t even set an official date for this year’s draft.
“It’s hard to make any kind of decisions when you don’t have too much information about the decision you need to make,” said WVU Coach Randy Mazey. “So [I told them] just kind of sit tight and wait, see what the cards that are dealt to us are, once you get the cards you can decide whether to put your chips in the pot or fold.”
Alek Manoah led the way for the record-breaking class after being selected by the Toronto Blue Jays with the 11th overall pick. Despite leaving as a junior with a year of eligibility remaining, he didn’t hesitate to give his thoughts about the opportunity afforded by eligibility relief.
“If I had the chance to play another year in a West Virginia jersey, I would take it,” Manoah said. “Now a lot of people might say, oh, I did have a chance. But I’m just saying if you have the chance — this year is just a wash, you get another redshirt year and there’s still leverage and all that [to go pro], I would always take that extra year in a West Virginia jersey.”
Manoah did add that he wouldn’t blame his former teammates if they did opt to leave, and he would support the decision.
Ultimately, the decision is up to the players themselves. Brophy notes that he earned his degree, which was his main goal when he forwent the pros coming out of high school for college baseball. He has the option to go to graduate school, which is another path in which he is interested.
“But also, on the other side of that, playing professional baseball is kind of hard to turn down,” he said. “I think if the Yankees came calling, I’d take it. My mom’s favorite team was the Yankees, she always used to talk about me playing there and playing with that team, but I can’t make that decision now and I just have to wait until the moment comes.”
Regardless of what happens over the summer, Brophy says he knows he will be playing baseball next year somewhere.
You can catch the full interviews with Brophy, Manoah and Coach Mazey on this week’s episode of the WVU Coaches Show.