Frank Baker turned down the Giants in 1966, Ed Assaf spurned the Royals in 1967 and Wilson Plunkett rejected the Angels in 1973. Pro Football Hall of Fame punter Ray Guy turned down contracts from the Astros in 1971 and the Braves in 1972 before finally signing with the Reds in 1973, the same year he was drafted by the Oakland Raiders.
Roughly 49 years after Guy chose the gridiron over the diamond, Southern Miss’ MLB Draft results are trending firmly in the opposite direction.
Before pitchers Dalton Rogers, Tyler Stuart, Landon Harper, Ben Ethridge and Garrett Ramsey were chosen in the 2022 MLB Draft, each of the last 23 USM players to hear their names called had signed – a sample that includes 14 players who were drafted with collegiate eligibility remaining.
That number, however, is somewhat open to interpretation.
Technically, Austin Davis is the last Golden Eagle not to sign after being selected by an MLB organization. He was taken in the 31st round of the 2012 draft by Boston.
Southern Miss fans will remember Davis as the quarterback who led USM to a Conference USA championship in 2011, throwing four touchdown passes against Houston in the title game.
A standout pitcher at the high school level, Davis never played in a competitive baseball game for the Golden Eagles, taking part in the 2007 fall season before deciding to focus on football.
Excluding Davis from the sample would mean the last 27 drafted Golden Eagles have signed, dating back to 2010. That year, pitcher Todd McInnis went in the 32nd round to the Oakland Athletics before deciding to return.
A year later, the St. Louis Cardinals took him in the 25th round.
SOUTHERN MISS BASEBALL IN THE 2022 MLB DRAFT:Tracking the Golden Eagles picked
It should be acknowledged that the draft landscape has changed. For one, there’s only one draft every year – not three, as was the case when Baker was first selected in 1966. Draft bonuses pools now routinely surpass $10 million for teams with top picks, positioning MLB franchises to offer strong economic incentives to college players.
Still, the recent streak of drafted Golden Eagles departing for the pro ranks falls outside the college baseball norm.
Using the number that removes Davis from the equation, Southern Miss’ 27 straight draft signees mark the second-most among Sun Belt institutions. Only James Madison compares, with 31 straight departing draftees.
Of the other five Division I baseball programs in Mississippi, none come close to matching that mark.
Among the 63 other programs that qualified for the 2022 NCAA Tournament, five have a longer streak. Only East Carolina’s 29 straight signees surpass Southern Miss’ mark within the 16 teams that advanced to the super regional round.
History isn’t necessarily predictive. Any college player who chooses to return to school and put off a chance at the pros is an outlier these days.
Reach Southern Miss writer David Eckert at email@example.com or on Twitter @davideckert98.