After an All-Mid-American Conference (MAC) First Team and All-MAC Defensive Team season for Ball State Baseball in 2022, and playing in the Cape Cod Summer League during June and July, outfielder Zach Cole was told he was going to be selected in the 2022 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft, but not when. Cole paced around his living room during day two of the draft, July 18, 2022, anxiously tapping his foot, awaiting a phone call from his agent notifying him of his selection.
Then, in the 10th round, the Houston Astros drafted Cole with the 313th overall pick.
“My heart rate definitely picked up a couple beats per minute,” Cole said. “It just kind of made me feel nervous, like right before a game or something. It was kind of confusing because I was just sitting on my couch [when I got the call], so it was kind of a rush of a bunch of different mixed emotions, but it was overall a very positive experience and it was super exciting to see my name on TV.”
Cole admitted the road to being selected in the MLB Draft was not an easy one. Through nagging injuries, Cole played in 21 games in his freshman and sophomore year combined, whereas during his junior season (2022), he played in 55 games, starting 52.
Ball State Baseball head coach Rich Maloney echoed Cole’s thoughts, as he knows the battle the outfielder has fought as well as anyone.
“He's climbed a mountain because when he was recruited, he was my top recruit bar none, and he struggled for the first two seasons and then really had a great fall this past fall and then struggled at the beginning of the first half [of the 2022 season], then he caught fire,” Maloney said. “He was as good a player as there was out there, but his skill set has always been there, it's just a matter of him putting them together and I'm really happy for him that he was able to do that for our team because we couldn't have won the [MAC Regular Season] Championship without him.”
Like Cole, MAC Pitcher of the Year, left-hander Tyler Schweitzer knew he was going to be selected in the 2022 MLB Draft as well. Unlike Cole, Schweitzer quickly discovered he was headed to Chicago, Illinois, no matter what.
His agent called and said the Chicago Cubs may take him in the fifth round with the 143rd pick, but if not, the Chicago White Sox would take him in the same round with the 161st pick. Soon after, the Cubs selected Texas Tech right handed pitcher Brandon Birdsell, all but sealing Schweitzer’s fate.
After receiving the initial call, he didn’t tell anyone at his draft party, full of close friends, family and coaches, because he wanted authentic reactions.
“I had to kind of just sit there and wait for 18 more picks for them to call my name,” Schweitzer said. “All my family members had their phone out recording because they thought the next pick was going to be the one, so that was very entertaining on my part, and then when I got the call and when it came up on the screen, a lot of joy just filled filled my heart and it was just a lot of fun.”
After he was selected by the White Sox at 161, Schweitzer said he had a similar reaction to Cole. Heart pounding, a mix of every emotion all at once. Schweitzer said although his initial reaction was a mix of happiness and disbelief, once he had time to reflect on the “surreal” moment, he felt a sense of relief.
Having those close family, friends and coaches in the same room while he was selected made the moment even better, Schweitzer said.
“It's the world,” Schweitzer said. “It's awesome. Having everyone that I love in one place and knowing that they have my back wherever I go in the future, it's a special moment.”
Schweitzer credits much of his success to the culture of Ball State Baseball. He said the program’s history of hard work and dedication made an impact on him and drove him to make the jump from “firefighter” reliever in 2020-21 to ace in 2022.
“The work ethic that we put in, day in and day out, I think that's the biggest thing that Ball State throws out,” Schweitzer said. “If you want to be the best, you got to work like the best. You got to work harder than the next person because I know no one else is gonna be waking up at 5 a.m. every day. What are you doing to get better every single day?”
Maloney has now coached 67 MLB Draft picks over the course of his career. After watching Schweitzer and Cole achieve their dreams, he too thinks about the culture of the Cardinal program, though he credits that strong culture to the players that put on the Ball State jersey.
“You think back on the program and you look in my office and see all these pictures on the wall of all these different kids who made great contributions and built this great tradition we now have,” Maloney said. “To see it thriving right now and continuing is very gratifying, because it’s over a long period of time that you build a tradition and we have one here, it's a tradition of excellence and in order to keep that tradition going, people have to continue to do what Zach and Tyler did and what this team did. We're thankful for it and we don't take it for granted.”
After reflecting on the journey he had been on leading up to his eventual selection, Cole said he felt a great sense of gratitude. He thought about himself as a young child, how he dreamed he would someday be like the players he saw on television.
Cole successfully climbed the mountain Maloney spoke of.
“It is very rewarding,” Cole said. “The Lord has been good to me this year, and He's always good, but it's easy to see it this year with some of the things He's done for me and to be able to look at the little six-year-old kid who was playing T-ball who was watching the big leaguers on TV and wanted to be a big leaguer one day, if I could tell him that we got drafted today, he'd be pretty happy.”