Ricky Negron was not a cinch this time around as the later rounds of the annual MLB amateur draft hit the boards. Then the call came late Wednesday afternoon, as he monitored the draft with his father Ray, who has been around baseball the past 40 years as a special consultant with the New York Yankees and now is also the host of Impact on ESPN Desportes.
The Atlanta Braves made the call. Negron, an infielder from Babylon, New York was picked in the 34th round. The hard work of getting selected got some congratulatory calls at the Tampa home of his dad. Yankees Hall of Famer, “Mr. October” Reggie Jackson and Roberto Alomar, another baseball great in the Hall of Fame were thrilled.
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to get picked,” said Negron, “I was a little nervous.” Who can blame him as his hard work earned him this opportunity. Baseball is a big business and this annual draft does provide some drama.
“Ricky has earned the opportunity to play professional baseball,” Jackson said after he left the Yankees clubhouse late Wednesday night in Anaheim, California. “I have worked with him and I know that he can hit. Just like anyone in this situation, all Ricky needed was this chance.”
Added Jackson, “Jon Hart and the Braves are showing true class in giving young Mr. Negron this opportunity. Considering that I have worked with Ricky since he was ten years old and his dad is like my brother, I have to thank John Hart and the Braves.”
John Hart, the President of the Braves, went with criteria that longtime scout Tom Giordano provided. Known as “T-Bone” by his associates in the game, Giordano has been around the game for over 70 years as a player and a scout.
“If Ricky Negron is given an opportunity to play, you will see a kid that’s gonna hit some home runs,” Giordano said. “Natural raw power and a great makeup. I’m just happy that we picked him.”
Negron was one of seven drafted yesterday from Tampa’s elite baseball program. It is the second time around in the draft process for Ricky as the first call came from the San Diego Padres in the 2014 draft. Negron opted instead to getting his degree and more playing experience at Auburn University. “I promised my Dad that I would get my education and I am thankful to be given the opportunity again to play professional ball” said Negron.
“Just hard work and staying at it,” he said. “I kept working hard whether I was playing at college, or working out with my long-time support group. I took in all of the advice from the great people in my life.”
It’s the power swing that he brought to the table as a right-handed hitter. Ricky worked with Tampa University’s coach, Joe Urso, and the Braves monitored his swing in his final year at Tampa. He had a power bat off the bench at .256 with a slugging percentage over .500 which included five home runs and twenty RBI.
Through the friendship with his father, Ray, Alomar, a 12 time all-star, became the Godfather to Ricky during his years as a player with the Cleveland Indians.
“I was hoping that someone would have taken him out of high school,” Alomar said. “I have worked with Ricky since he was five years old. We always took ground balls together in Cleveland and I always knew that he had natural baseball instincts. It’s not surprising that Jon Hart would be behind him since he has seen my Godson Ricky grow up.”
And now it will be decision time. In a few days, Braves executives in charge of signing talent will meet with Ricky Negron and make their offer. Atlanta is a franchise in a rebuilding process and youth is something that has become a priority as more than one draft pick has reached the big league level.
Of course, Ray Negron, Ricky’s father, will be there providing the proper advice as he has always been there for the four kids that he has raised during his baseball life. It will be a great Father’s Day for both father and son. The first step is to sign the contract and be grateful for the opportunity.
“One day, the big leagues,” said Ricky as the celebration continued in Tampa. “Just for now, taking it one day at a time.”
Ricky said, “I am happy. I am happy for my family and for myself but more importantly for my six teammates who were also selected. I know their dream to get drafted was just as big as mine. Someone said that they are calling us ‘The Magnificent Seven.’ How cool is that?
“I would like to also give a special thank you to Joe Urso, Sam Militello, The University of Tampa and Atlanta Braves GM John Coppolella”