By Tim Ward
Unlike other sports, baseball still drafts players fresh out of high school. Most of the time it takes them some years to make it up to the major league baseball team, but they are paid as they continue their maturation for the pros.
Baseball has a “farm” system. Basically, they draft players and start them on their other teams and advance them up as they get better. Baseball concluded its drafts this week. All 40 rounds of it.
A surprise to some, was Murrah High School’s Zach Bird being drafted in the ninth round by the Los Angeles Dodgers. It isn’t surprising based on Bird’s ability. Bird was a dandy dozen baseball player and selected to play in the all-star game. It is surprising because Jackson Public Schools hasn’t produced a drafted baseball player in nearly 10 years. Todd Johnson was drafted out of Provine in 2003. Trey Johnson, son of current JPS athletic director, Clint Johnson, was drafted in 2002 from Murrah. Johnson elected to stay with basketball and plays in the NBA.
Bird is a 6’4” right handed pitcher. According to him, his best pitch is probably his slider. His fastball has been clocked at 94 mph. One of the best things about Bird is the fact that he is well rounded. Not only is he an exceptional baseball player, Bird is an academic scholar as well. He graduated last week with a 4.08 GPA which placed him in the top 10 of his graduating class.
Now Bird has the biggest decision of his young life. He had already committed to playing baseball at USM next season. But now that he’s been drafted, he can opt to go straight to the “pros” or continue on to USM. If he elects to go to USM, then he can’t reenter the draft until after his junior year at Southern Miss.
When asked how he felt, Bird responded, “It’s an indescribable feeling. I’m honored to be taken so high.” Bird said phone calls started coming in and if the Dodgers did not draft him, it looks like either the Kansas City Royals or Cincinnati Reds may have gotten him.
When asked about his decision to play college ball or go pro, he said, “I haven’t decided yet.” He also said he received a congratulatory call from USM. “They’re good guys. They told me to let them know what I decide.”
Bird has until July 13 to make a final decision, but plans to make it in the next few weeks. If he does elect to go to USM, he will major in psychology.