After an All-Mid-American Conference (MAC) First Team and All-MAC Defensive Team season for Ball State Baseball in 2022 and playing in the Cape Cod Summer League in June and July, outfielder Zach Cole was told that he it would be selected in the 2022 Major League Baseball (MLB) draft, but not when. Cole paced his living room on the second day of the draft, July 18, 2022, anxiously tapping his foot and waiting for a call from his agent to inform him of his selection.
Then, in the 10th round, the Houston Astros drafted Cole with the 313th overall pick.
“My heart rate definitely went up a few beats per minute,” said Cole. “It made me kind of nervous, like just before a game or something. It was kind of confusing because I was just sitting on my couch [when I got the call]so it was kind of a rush of different mixed feelings but overall it was a very positive experience and it was super exciting to see my name on TV.”
Cole admitted the road to selection in the MLB draft wasn’t easy. Through nagging injuries, Cole played 21 games combined in his freshman and sophomore years while playing in 55 games and starting 52 in his junior season (2022).
Ball State Baseball head coach Rich Maloney echoed Cole’s thoughts, as he knows the fight the outfielder put up as well as anyone.
“He climbed a mountain because when he was recruited he was my best recruit without exception and he struggled the first two seasons and then had a really big crash last fall and then struggled early in the first half [of the 2022 season], then he caught fire,” Maloney said. “He was as good a player as there is out there but his skills have always been there, it’s just a matter of him bringing them together and I’m really happy for him that he was able to do that for our team because we would have can’t win that [MAC Regular Season] championship without him.”
Like MAC Pitcher of the Year Cole, left-hander Tyler Schweitzer knew he would be selected for the 2022 MLB Draft. Unlike Cole, Schweitzer quickly determined that he was definitely headed to Chicago, Illinois.
His agent called and said the Chicago Cubs could pick him into the fifth round with the 143rd pick, but if not, the Chicago White Sox would pick him into the same round with the 161st pick. Shortly after, the Cubs selected Texas Tech right-handed pitcher Brandon Birdsell, all but sealing Schweitzer’s fate.
After getting the first call, he didn’t tell anyone at his call-up party full of close friends, family, and coaches because he wanted authentic reactions.
“I just had to sit there and wait for 18 more picks to call my name,” Schweitzer said. “All my family members recorded their phone calls because they thought the next election would be that one, so that was very entertaining for me, and then when I got the call and when it came up on the screen, a lot of joy just filled my mind heart and it was just a lot of fun.”
After being picked by the White Sox at 161, Schweitzer said he had a reaction similar to Cole’s. Heart palpitations, a mixture of all emotions at once. Schweitzer said that although his initial reaction was a mixture of happiness and disbelief, he felt a sense of relief when he had time to reflect on the “surreal” moment.
Having that close family, friends and coaches in the same room while he was selected made the moment even better, Schweitzer said.
“It’s the world,” Schweitzer said. “It’s amazing. It’s a special moment to have everyone I love in one place and to know that they have my back wherever I go in the future.”
Schweitzer credits much of his success to the culture of Ball State baseball. He said the program’s history of hard work and dedication impressed him and pushed him to make the leap from “fireman” in 2020-21 to ace in 2022.
“The work ethic that we put in place day in and day out is what I think is the biggest thing that sets Ball State apart,” Schweitzer said. “If you want to be the best, you have to work like the best. You have to work harder than the next person because I know no one else is going to wake up at 5am every day. What are you doing to get better every day?”
Maloney has coached 67 MLB draft picks over the course of his career. After watching Schweitzer and Cole achieve their dreams, he too reflects on the culture of the Cardinal program, although he attributes that strong culture to the players who donned the Ball State jersey.
“You think back to the program and you look into my office and you see all these pictures on the wall of all these different kids who have made great contributions and built this great tradition that we have now,” Maloney said. “It’s very satisfying to see it thrive now and continue because you build a tradition over a long period of time and we have one here, it’s a tradition of excellence and to continue that tradition people have to keep going too do what Zach and Tyler did and what this team did. We are grateful for that and cannot be taken for granted.”
After reflecting on the journey he had taken toward his final selection, Cole said he felt a great sense of gratitude. He thought about himself as a young child, how he dreamed of one day being like the players he saw on TV.
Cole successfully climbed the mountain Maloney spoke of.
“It’s very rewarding,” said Cole. “The Lord has been good to me this year and He is always good, but it’s easy to see this year with some of the things He’s done for me and to be able to look at that little six-year-old child, that it was playing t-ball watching the big league on tv and wanting to be a big league someday if i could tell him we got drafted today he would be pretty happy.”
Contact Kyle Smedley with comments via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @smedley1932.