Former St. James standouts English, Heidt taken in MLB Draft

mmckinnon@thesunnews.comJune 7, 2014 

Former St. James standout Gunnar Heidt is taking his game to the pros.

However, his high school teammate, Tanner English, is keeping his options open.

Heidt, a junior infielder with College of Charleston, was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 13th round (384th overall) and English, a junior outfielder with South Carolina, was selected in the 11th round (320th overall) by the Minnesota Twins on Saturday during the MLB First Year Player Draft.

“It’s kind of like a dream come true,” Heidt said. “You work your whole life until you’re eligible for the draft and when you see your name cross the board it’s kind of overwhelming. But now I can finally get paid to play the game I love.”

Said English: “It’s been real cool, I really enjoyed myself this past year. I’m very lucky to get the opportunity to play professional baseball for a living; not a lot of kids get to say that. I’m really happy.”

Heidt is set on signing a contract with the Blue Jays, but hasn’t worked out all the figures quite yet.

“I’m pretty positive [I’m going to sign],” Heidt said. “We’re working out the deal with the money. But yeah, I’m going to be playing professional baseball next year.”

English, on the other hand, has some time to make a decision.

According to MLB.com, “a Club generally retains the rights to sign a selected player until 11:59 p.m., August 15, or until the player enters, or returns to, a four-year college on a full-time basis. A player who is drafted and does not sign with the Club that selected him may be drafted again at a future year's Draft, so long as the player is eligible for that year's Draft. A Club may not select a player again in a subsequent year, unless the player has consented to the re-selection.”

“I don’t know yet [if I’ll sign],” English said. “All I know is I got drafted; I haven’t talked to [Minnesota] in-depth at all. But I do want to get my professional career started, so I don’t know if I’ll get that chance again. I haven’t been in too much contact with the Twins so we’ll see.”

Heidt said he and English were texting each other during the draft and when he saw that English was drafted by Minnesota, he called to congratulate his former teammate. The two were hoping to land on the same team, but when English saw that the Blue Jays had drafted Heidt he called him to give his best wishes.

“Its awesome,” English said. “He didn’t get drafted out of high school so he was really hoping to get the chance out of college. He’s a [heck] of a ballplayer and he’s going to prove himself with Toronto and go up the ranks. I’m glad he gets to do that.”

Said Heidt: “We were trying to see if we would both get picked up by the same team. A few of the same teams were talking to both of us but it didn’t end up working out. When I saw he got picked, I called him and congratulated him and he did the same when I got picked.”

English was in Providence, R.I., having lunch with his girlfriend when he got the news that he was drafted – and it was a pleasant surprise.

“We were spending some time together and eating lunch when I got a notification from my teammate at South Carolina, Grayson Greiner,” English said. “He told me congratulations on getting drafted by the Twins and then my phone blew up with calls and texts and that’s when I knew.”

In 2011, English was drafted out of high school by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 13th round (420th overall), and was ranked as the 212th-best prospect in this year’s draft, according to Baseball America.

“A lot of people don’t realize what’s going on behind the scenes at the draft,” English said. “I honestly think it benefited me to get drafted in the 11th round. I’m pleased; everything happens for a reason and it’s all going to work out in the end.”

Heidt said he was expecting a better outcome being ranked 230th according to Baseball America, but the shortstop has big plans for his future.

“I got a few calls around the sixth, seventh and eighth rounds but it just didn’t work out. I’m still pretty happy being picked up in the 13th [round] and I’m happy to be a part of the Blue Jays’ organization,” he said. “I’ve always been a big fan of [Blue Jays right fielder] Jose Bautista; he’s a big home run hitter. Hopefully one day I could be in the lineup with him. I think that would be pretty cool.”

Even though Heidt elected to pursue a professional career, he still has some collegiate baseball left to play.

Heidt returned Saturday from over a month-long hiatus due to a broken hand, and went 0-for-3 for the No. 4 seed College of Charleston Cougars during a 1-0 loss to No. 2 Texas Tech in the first game of a three-game super regional series.

“It was awesome [to be back],” Heidt said. “I’ve been swinging the past few weeks and it was a huge crowd we played in front of. I was glad to be back.”

Now it’s do-or-die for the Cougars as they need to win the next two games to reach the College World Series.

But Heidt still has plenty confidence his squad can get the job done.

“Texas Tech played a good game,” he said. “We had a few opportunities to score and prevent them from score, so I’m not too worried. We have two of our hottest pitchers going the next two games and we didn’t use any of our bullpen today. So I’m pretty confident with a full bullpen and those guys on the mound to get it done.”

Heidt knows that it will be tough making his way up the ranks of minor league baseball but is ready for the challenge.

“I expect it to be professional. Everyone works hard, plays hard and a lot of the players are faster, stronger and more prepared at this level,” he said. “I’m going to have to get stronger and faster and learn a little more about the game. It gets harder every level you get to, and I’m just glad to be a part of it all.”

Meanwhile, English is prepared to give it his all should he decide to sign with Minnesota.

“All I can say is I’m going to come to the field every day and give it everything I got,” English said. “I’m going to try and work harder than everyone else and have a fun time.”

Contact MAX McKINNON at 626-0302.

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