The 2014 West Jefferson High School baseball team didn’t have the pitching services of ace lefty Caleb Ferguson for the entire spring season.
Ferguson suffered an arm injury which limited his time on the mound to just the first few games and left him playing his secondary position of first base for the majority of the season. That injury required Tommy John surgery, a surgical graft procedure in which the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body.
Ferguson, West Virginia University signee, was looking at a year on the shelf and a certain red-shirt season with the Mountaineers next spring. But apparently the standout showed enough promise during the previous summer and in his only couple of pitching outings this spring to get him drafted in the Major League Baseball Draft.
The Los Angeles Dodgers nabbed Ferguson in the 38th round of the professional draft and has given the 6-foot, 4-inch, 210 pound flamethrower a little something to think about when assessing his baseball future.
“I knew there was some interest from some teams,” Ferguson said. “But after I had the surgery I just figured I’d go to West Virginia and look at the draft in a few years. But now after getting drafted I need to figure out what I’m going to do.”
West Jefferson director of athletics Shawn Buescher wasn’t surprised to see a major league team take a chance on Ferguson, he watched a steady flow of major league scouts make their way to West Jeff all season long.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Buescher said. “Throughout the course of the year we had a multitude of games where there were quite a few pro scouts at our games. I was pretty confident that he would go somewhere. The truth is, his injury probably kept him from going a lot higher.”
Ferguson wasn’t sitting around the computer watching the draft results or talking to people about what might or might not happen, but then he got the phone call he was hoping would come.
“I was watching the state high school playoff games when I got a call from the Dodgers and they said ‘we just drafted you,’” Ferguson said.
That call instantly changed the way the lefty is looking at his future. His options include agreeing to the contract offer and signing with the Dodgers, foregoing any chance to play college baseball or pass on the chance to play professionally right now, attend college and play at West Virginia University. If he goes the college route Ferguson wouldn’t be eligible to be drafted again until the 2017 draft. MLB draft rules prevent college players from being drafted until after their junior seasons are completed.
So which way is Ferguson leaning?
“It means a lot to get drafted,” he said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to play professional sports. But if I wait, go to West Virginia, I could work on my game and hopefully get drafted in three years. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet. I have some time to think about it, I’d say it’s 50-50 right now.”
Ferguson has already begun the rehab process, doing so with the Cincinnati Reds’ doctors and physical therapy team twice a week in Cincinnati. The typical rehab on this type of injury, which is becoming increasingly more popular amongst high school and college baseball players is a year, but the West Jeff grad is hoping for a quicker return to the mound.
“They say it’s about a year, but I’m hoping to make it back in 10 months,” he said. “They say I should be able to start throwing short distances in three or four months.”
For Buescher, watching Ferguson get drafted is a sign of where the Roughriders baseball program is headed under coach Jason Bogenrife.
“I think it says a lot about the type of player Caleb is, the amount of talent he has and how hard he’s worked,” Buescher said. “It also says a lot about the West Jeff baseball program and the type of job our coaching staff is doing with our young men.”
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.