When former Virginia Tech Tennessee High slugger Gavin Cross is selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball entry draft on July 17, the world will know.
After all, the event is televised by MLB Network during All-Star Week in Los Angeles.
Reporters from several newspapers and television stations will file articles on the importance of this achievement.
Bloggers and social media users are sure to offer their thoughts on what this means for the big league organization that drafted Cross and predictions on how quickly he can reach the majors.
It was a very different scenario in the summer of 1967 when wide receiver Nick Graybeal became the first Tennessee High graduate ever selected in the MLB draft, advancing to the fourth round with the 74th overall pick for the Philadelphia Phillies.
“I was already out of high school and there was a little text in the newspaper about it and I did an interview with John Thomas from WOPI [radio]”, Graybeal said. “I didn’t really see anyone again after that and then I left for South Dakota. I didn’t even know if anyone knew or not.
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It was part of a memorable summer for Graybeal, who hit .356 with four homers in paving the way for Tennessee High’s run to the 1967 TSSAA State Championship. Bristol Herald Courier sportswriter Dave Sparks l frequently called Nick the Stick.
As a freshman, he caught a no-hitter from Vikings ace pitcher Eddie Hill. Hill was signed by the Minnesota Twins as a free agent in 1964 (the year before the modern draft began) and pitched underage.
“He threw hard,” Graybeal said. “He threw a really heavy ball.”
Professional talent scouts noticed Graybeal soon after.
“I had been in contact with the [Phillies] scout for a while, a few years,” Graybeal said. “He called me and told me I had been drafted. He wouldn’t tell me in which round I was drafted. It was hard to know anything, but The Sporting News had a list and I noticed I was in the fourth round.
“It was exciting to know that they thought of me so much. To be honest, I certainly didn’t deserve anything like that.”
The teenager was assigned to the short-season Northern League Huron Phillies and his teammates there included future big leaguers Toby Harrah and Andre Thornton.
It was definitely a bit of a culture shock for Graybeal going from northeast Tennessee to South Dakota.
“My God, yes,” Graybeal said. “You have never seen a flatter country in your life. There were a few small hills and valleys, but not many. Huron had about 10,000 people, but at least 10% of them came to baseball games.
He hit .200 with seven RBIs in 31 games for Huron, but injuries would hamper his season and end his pro career prematurely.
Five years after Graybeal was drafted, THS first baseman Eddie Roberts was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 29th round and in 1977 Vikings outfielder Mark McKinney went to the Detroit Tigers in the fourth round.
Two pitchers from the 1992 Tennessee High team were drafted.
Chris Phipps was selected by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 31st round and spent four seasons playing professionally.
The Cleveland Indians went with Joey Malone in the 50th round, but he did not pursue a pitching career and instead played basketball at Wofford College.
Adam Cross, Gavin’s father, spent three years with the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres organizations after signing as an undrafted free agent at East Tennessee State University in 1995.
Boodle Clark and Marcus Nidiffer are THS alumni who signed undrafted free agent deals and played in the minors in the 21st century, while pitcher Chase Cunningham had successful careers for independent league clubs.
THS’s newest recruit was Mitch Stophel, a King’s University pitcher who the Chicago Cubs won in the 25th round in 2017.
“Coach [Blaine] Brown at King had let me know what he had heard from several Boy Scouts. Also, my Cubs area scout had called me the first night and said they were going to sign me on the third day if they hadn’t been picked up yet. So, I expected that,” Stophel said. “I was at my parents’ house with my mother and my father. We were sitting on the couch listening to the draft. Shortly after being drafted, my area scout called me.
Stophel went 2-2 with a 7.27 ERA and made two championship teams in his two seasons as a Cubs farmhand.
“It’s a chore,” Stophel said. “Professional baseball isn’t what a lot of people think it is, but I’m beyond lucky to have had the opportunity to play at a high level. It’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for nothing in the world, but it’s by no means an easy road.I met a lot of great people from all over the world and was able to travel around the country and see a lot of great places.
The Colorado Rockies are one of the teams that could possibly draft Gavin Cross according to some predictions.
In 2003, the organization selected former THS pitcher Eli Rose in the 44th round from Cleveland State Community College. He certainly had a unique draft experience.
“I found out I had been drafted while sitting in a plastic surgeon’s office in Cleveland, Tennessee,” Rose said. “They were checking how my jaw was healing after being hit in the face with line training while throwing. Back then, the MLB draft was not a big show. It was done by conference call that you could listen to online. The receptionist at the doctor’s office was kind enough to turn it on and she clapped for me when my name was called.
All of those guys mentioned above were pressed to be drafted by an MLB organization.
“Preparing for the draft can be a very exciting time for a player who is being considered,” Rose said. “I can only imagine the buzz around being a projected first-rounder, especially with how big of a spectacle the draft is these days. It’s really cool to hear that an ancient Viking should be a first-round pick. I hope Gavin has a good support system, keeps his head straight and makes it to the show.
Tennessee High’s first draft pick 55 years ago followed the future first-rounder who once played for the Vikings.
“Oh yeah, I followed Gavin,” Graybeal said. “I tried to watch it as much as possible.”