The Major League Baseball draft will take place next week with only five rounds instead of the usual there's 40. That’s a major curveball for a lot of players. But two pitchers from the University of Hartford have seen plenty of those lately.
“It's what we go to bed thinking about and it's the first thing we think about when we wake up in the morning,” Hartford pitcher Nathan Florence said it took some time to come to terms with the sudden end to this season.
Not just because he wanted to play, but because he was coming up on a key season in his shot at the next level.
“Going into your junior year it's your first draft-eligible year as a college athlete,” said Florence.
So when junior year was canceled as spring sports across the country came to a halt amid coronavirus concerns, it was a tough blow for Florence and his teammate, Nick Dombkowski. Florence was planning a comeback season, after missing his true junior year while rehabbing from an injury. Dombkowsi was looking for one more chance to boost his stock for the upcoming draft.
“It was pretty close,” said Dombkowski. “I felt like it was on the end of my fingers and to have it snatched, it's devastating.”
“I was feeling healthy. I was feeling strong ready to go back for this year before it was canceled,” said Florence, both pitches made just three starts in the short 2020 season.
But the players have one thing on their side. Before they were college teammates, they were high school rivals and summer ball friends in Western Massachusetts.
“I can't imagine going through this alone and not having anyone to play catch with,” said Florence.
“We're throwing partners at school so we're always working out together,” said Dombkowski. “We're always throwing together at school so just to have him here, you know, we're like brothers, we keep pushing each other.”
So while timing is everything, a little more time together might not be such a setback after all.
“We'll be juniors again next year as we go back so just got to get ready for that,” said Florence.
There's still a chance either of them could sign with a pro team after the draft. The first round of the 2020 MLB Draft is set for June 10th.