Eric Aguilera had heard from people before advising not to sit around and wait for results on the computer during Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft.
“They say, ‘Go do something,’ ” the 2008 Cary-Grove graduate said.
So Aguilera, a left-handed hitter who led Illinois State with a .346 average this season, went to Alpine Valley with friends to hear the Zac Brown Band.
While they were waiting for the concert, Aguilera received the news that the Los Angeles Angels had selected him in the 34th round. He was both excited and relieved.
“We were getting to that point where I was expecting not to get picked,” Aguilera said. “I was upset and prepped not to get picked. Thank God the Angels gave me a shot here. I hope I can give them all I have.”
Jerad Grundy, a 2009 Johnsburg graduate, knew he would sign with whatever team drafted him this time around. After being drafted three previous times, Grundy, now out of college eligibility, was selected by Oakland in the 10th round Friday and signed with the A’s on Saturday.
“I didn’t really have too much contact with [the A’s] in the last two months,” Grundy said. “It was a bit of a surprise. It’s an organization me and my parents are pretty happy about.”
Grundy hired agent Sam Samardzija, the older brother of Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija, and worked out the details quickly with the A’s. Grundy will be in Phoenix Tuesday for the start of extended spring training. He is uncertain where he will pitch this season.
“It depends on where they need guys,” Grundy said. “They have a short [-season Class A] team in Vermont, that’s where a lot of guys go.”
Grundy was a Northwest Herald All-Area first-team selection as a pitcher in 2009. He was drafted by Texas in the 46th round, but turned down the Rangers because he had a scholarship to Miami (Fla.).
After one season at Miami, Grundy pitched at Heartland Community College, a two-year school in Bloomington, and again was drafted, that time by Miami in the 42nd round.
Grundy transferred to Kentucky and was 6-3 with a 3.78 ERA, 63 strikeouts and 36 walks in 85 2/3 innings as a junior. He was drafted by Minnesota last year in the 26th round, but returned to Kentucky.
“It was actually a down year [at Kentucky] for me personally, and as a team,” Grundy said. “We had a lot of high expectations. We were rated so high in the preseason and started out well.”
The Wildcats were 45-18 in Grundy’s junior season, setting the school record for victories. Kentucky was 30-25 this season. He has been working out with trainer Chris Leathers, another Johnsburg graduate, at Leathers’ Your World Fitness in Spring Grove.
By staying in school, Grundy improved his draft position each year and is three classes short of his degree in community and leadership development.
“There’s no regrets,” Grundy said.
Grundy and Aguilera were friends through connections at Heartland. Grundy arrived when Aguilera had transferred to ISU, but the two knew each other through competing in high school and through teammates at Heartland.
Aguilera tied for the team lead with seven home runs and drove in a team-high 58 runs. He also topped the Redbirds (39-19) with 121 total bases and made only two errors.
Aguilera realized last summer when he had a strong season with the Lake Shore Chinooks in the Northwoods League he had a shot to get drafted this year.
“I thought it was going to be earlier, but I’m very happy to be selected,” said Aguilera, who had not talked to the Angels as of early Saturday evening. “I have no idea where they’re sending me. I can’t wait for the next challenge.”