From the moment the Los Angeles Dodgers selected Jason Bilous in the 29th round of Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft in June until the deadline July 17 for drafted players to sign with their respective clubs, Coastal Carolina baseball coach Gary Gilmore could only wait and hope.
Gilmore felt the Chanticleers had landed a gem in recruiting Bilous to sign with the program, but they weren’t the only ones who coveted the talented right-handed pitcher from Delaware.
Even though Bilous was recovering from Tommy John surgery, which caused him to fall as far in the draft as he did, the Dodgers were prepared to make an aggressive offer to fast track his professional career.
In the end, the ballclub would push its offer to $600,000, according to Bilous, but he held firm to his contract demands and made it campus after all.
Gilmore has said he believes Bilous could be a first-round draft pick by the time he reenters the draft after his junior season, and in the meantime, he’s a significant piece of the Chants’ hopes in competing for a spot in the College World Series these next few years.
Bilous sat down a couple weeks ago for a Q+A to discuss the draft process and his own expectations for his time in Conway.
Q: Take me through the decision to come here and not sign with the Dodgers. How close did it come and how tense was that for you?
Bilous: “Well it was a very big decision. Starting out at first, it was mostly pro going to the draft. But unfortunately I got the Tommy John injury and from that point on I thought I was going to go to college no matter what. Starting back farther, I had about 10 pro teams coming to my house just talking about how much they like me or what they think my signability is and all that. After I got hurt, I thought all of it was just going to stop and they were just going to all back off. No one wants to draft a Tommy John guy. But as the time went on, some of the top prospects got Tommy John [surgery] as well and I was already four or five months ahead of those guys.
“So some of the interest started coming back and I started getting more calls, and I’d say [a few] months ago, maybe, I started getting a bunch of calls asking me what my signability and all that is. I was fortunate to get drafted in the 29th round, I think it was the [882nd] pick, but we had a very strong number [for contract requirements] because the college experience and just college in general was very important to me. So we stuck with that number. We told them our number, and they went to their office and got back to us, and unfortunately they couldn’t come up with what we wanted, so that’s why I’m here now and I’m loving it right now. It’s great.”
Q: Coach Gilmore had said they did come in late with an aggressive offer. How close did they come to meeting your demands there?
Bilous: “Well, they came up with $600,000. So it wasn’t far [off]. It was a very strong offer for the [29th] round. If I’m correct, it’s third-round money and I got drafted in the [29th] round. That was an impressive offer, but I definitely think college is the way to go. I’ll get hopefully three years here, mature, get healthy and hopefully get a higher pick.”
Q: That’s a pretty strong statement from you that you wanted to be here to pass that up. In the final hours and minutes was there any more dialouge and conversation or were you pretty much at that point done and decided that this was going to happen?
Bilous: “Yeah, I was done. I definitely wanted to go to college.”
Q: How did you find Coastal Carolina or how did you choose them in the recruiting process?
Bilous: “The summer of my junior year in high school, I played for All-Star Baseball Academy out of West Chester, PA, and I got a bunch of interest from colleges all over the place and Coastal was one of them. I was talking to my coach and he said ‘Coastal is interested in you, but as of right now, your command is a little shaky.’ So they kind of backed off, and then the fall, I would say, of last year, I started pitching very strong and they called me up one day and said, ‘We’re very interested in you.’ [Chants pitching coach Drew Thomas] actually talked to me about how my command got very good and how my secondary pitches were becoming stronger, so that encouraged me to want to go here. Plus, I really love the weather here and it’s much better than the cold in Delaware. ....
The big key for me going here was the coaches. I fit right in with them.”
Q: Who were you choosing between?
Bilous: “I mean it wasn’t really even close. Coastal just came in and swept everything away.”
Q: So now you’re here. How’s the rehab from the surgery going and what kind of timeline do you think you’re on?
Bilous: “I’m at about seven and a half to eight months right now. To get fully back to normal pitching off a mound in a game, it should be around 14 or 15 months so I’m about halfway right now. Right now I’m throwing just long toss at about 180 feet and I do that every other day and then I have my rehab every day so that’s getting me much stronger. I hope to be throwing on flat ground by, say, nine months and after I get [to] flat ground it’s not that long before I start throwing off the mound.”
Q: Well just lastly, the coaches are so high on you here, Coach Gilmore said he thinks you could be a first-rounder by the time you leave. What’s your goal for your career at Coastal and where you want to end up?
Bilous: “Wow, this first year I want to focus on getting healthy – that’s the big key. Getting healthy and then staying healthy and then slowly working my way back up to what I was. And hopefully by sophomore year I’m starting, maybe a Friday or Saturday night guy, and by junior year I hope to be one of the top guys in all of college. And then hopefully get drafted in the first 20 picks.”