Prep Rally | Unlike National Signing Day, baseball draft is out of Cord Sandberg's hands

jlembo@bradenton.comMarch 15, 2013 

EAST MANATEE

Two out, top of the sixth.

A runner on second and his team down by a run.

Cord Sandberg strolled to the plate Tuesday night at Braden River, ready to take a third attempt at solving Brooks Norton's change-up, a tantalizing pitch the Manatee Hurricanes fruitlessly flailed at for most of the night.

But this is baseball, the only sport where one team can totally neutralize another's best player. So the Pirates bucked conventional wisdom and put the go-ahead run on by intentionally walking Sandberg.

"He's the type of kid where if you make a mistake," Pirates coach Mike Verrill said, "he can win it with a two-run homer."

All Sandberg could do was toss his bat and jog down to first. And an inning later, the Pirates were toasting a 1-0 win.

Sandberg will be dealing with another uncontrollable circumstance this summer -- baseball's amateur draft.

Manatee's senior centerfielder is considered one of the best prep baseball players in the country and was recently named an All-America First Teamer by Perfect Game/Rawlings Sports.

Looks as if Sandberg will be a high draft pick come the first week of June.

Who will call his name? And when?

That's not up to Sandberg.

It's the complete opposite of what he had to deal with as a football player,

where his successful three-year run as Manatee's quarterback made him one of the most hotly pursued players in the nation.

Colleges threw Sandberg offers as frequently as Sandberg threw his receivers touchdowns, and the lefty eventually committed and signed with Mississippi State.

That time, the choice was completely Sandberg's.

Draft day, however, he can do nothing more than sit, wait and wonder which of baseball's 30 professional franchises will use one of its picks on him.

"I guess my favorite team would be the Tampa Bay Rays because it's the hometown team," Sandberg said. "But my new favorite team is whoever drafts me."

Sandberg does have options. If the draft doesn't go the way he wants, he heads to Mississippi State and becomes a Bulldog.

As far as consolation prizes go, you can do much worse than going to school for free while playing football in the SEC.

Pro baseball, however, is the golden ring Sandberg wants to grab.

Similar to that intentional walk that blocked out his last at-bat -- "I was ready for that one," Sandberg said -- the rest of the situation is out of his hands.

John Lembo, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2097. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnLembo1878.

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