Morel picked by Pirates, Fuentes taken by Yankees in MLB Draft
Fernando Fuentes sat by the phone all day Tuesday, during the first day of the Major League Baseball first-year player draft, and didn't get the call.
The Weehawken High School senior catcher heard reports from scouts and baseball officials that he was going to be taken, but when the first 20 rounds were selected on the first day of the draft, Fuentes didn't know what to expect.
"Honestly, I was a little frustrated," Fuentes said. "I was waiting for the call, because I expected to get the call earlier. I was very surprised that I didn't get the call the first day."
However, Fuentes didn't get totally discouraged. He knew that the draft still had two days remaining.
"I was hoping that anyone would call me," Fuentes said. "Just get it over with. Either have someone draft me or don't take me at all."
Finally, the call came but it didn't come from a major league team.
"First, my girlfriend called me and said that she put my name on the Internet on the Major League Baseball web site and it came up that I was taken by the Yankees," Fuentes said. "I wanted to be surprised and get the call from someone. I didn't know if what she saw was true."
Then, a sportswriter called with the same news.
"That's when I knew it had to be true," Fuentes said. "I got both calls before I got the call from the Yankees."
Fuentes was indeed selected by the World Champions in the 36th round. He was the 1,085th player selected in the draft.
Fuentes was not the lone Hudson County product taken in the draft.
Emerson's standout left-hander Jhosandy Morel was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 26th round, the 774th selection overall.
"This is my dream," Morel said. "When I got the news, I couldn't believe it. I put my hands over my head and said, 'Wow.' I took a minute to sit down. I've always wanted to play pro baseball and now, I'm getting the chance."
Morel said that he was glad the Pirates were the team who selected him because the organization has been good in the past to Hispanic players - Morel hails from the Dominican Republic - and that local scout Dana Brown, the former Seton Hall University standout, followed Morel to many games.
"I knew that he [Brown] liked me a lot," Morel said. "I like the idea that it's the Pirates, because a lot of Hispanics have done well there. I knew that the Pirates were interested in me, so I was excited and happy that it was them."
While Fuentes and Morel received their calls, Jersey City native Brian Ellerson, the pre-season Division III Player of the Year from Montclair State, was not taken. It was apparent that baseball scouts were a little leery about Ellerson's health, after he suffered a serious knee injury last month, an injury that will require reconstructive surgery soon.
It's a tough break for Ellerson, who was projected to go as high as the eighth round by some scouting services. Now, he will have to rehabilitate the knee and hope to recover in time for his senior year at Montclair State and perhaps get another chance to be drafted in the future.
Fuentes is doesn't know if he will sign a contract with the Yankees or head on to play baseball in college. He has some offers to play junior college baseball in South Carolina and Florida.
"I think my chances will be helped now that I've been drafted," Fuentes said. "I know that I can go and play baseball in college somewhere. It all depends on what the Yankees want to do. Maybe they will put it in my contract that I can receive some money to go to college. I just want to play ball somewhere. It's a decision I will have to make with my parents."
Morel said that he will more than likely sign a contract with the Pirates instead of waiting to see if he was going to receive any college offers. If he signs, he will have to wait until after his high school graduation on June 25.
Fuentes, who grew up as a Yankees fan, was happy that his favorite team was the one who finally called.
"I've always been a diehard Yankee fan," Fuentes said. "I'm really happy and excited that it was them. I had a tryout with the Yankees last week and it was the first time I stepped on the field at Yankee Stadium. It was like, 'Wow, it's Yankee Stadium.' I couldn't imagine getting the chance to play there. I thought to myself that it would be great to get drafted by them and I did."
Fuentes is also a big student of the game who knows the catching prospects the Yankees have in their organization.
"I pretty much know all the catchers in all the organizations," Fuentes said. "The Yankees have a lot of catchers in their farm system, so it won't be easy."
But he's getting the chance and a lot of local products don't.