HAMPTON — Danny Grauer was enjoying a day off with his Peninsula Pilots teammates at the Downtown Hampton Block Party when he heard the news that he had been waiting for his entire life.
He said he looked down at his cellphone to see the message, “Congratulations!” from one of his friends. Startled by the seemingly random message, he sent back: “For what?”
Not long after, the Chesapeake native and former Hickory High standout discovered that his childhood dreams of being selected in the Major League Baseball draft had come true when the Cincinnati Reds took him in the 38th round.
“Two weeks before the draft, I talked to one of the scouts for the Reds, and he told me that they were interested in drafting me,” Grauer said. “I didn't know how much to read into it at the time, so it still came as a little bit of a surprise for me.”
The news traveled fast as he received dozens of phone calls and text messages from teammates and coaches congratulating him.
The draft came after an impressive junior campaign for Grauer, who helped lead Liberty to a 36-29 record, the Big South tournament title and an NCAA tournament berth.
Listed as a pitcher and catcher in Liberty's media guide, Grauer said that the Reds drafted him as a pitcher though he only has pitched 19 innings in two seasons.
“The scout told me that I had more pro potential as a pitcher, but I still plan on hitting some as well,” he said.
Known more for his bat than his arm, Grauer led the Flames with seven home runs and was second on the team with 42 RBI this season. He made 54 starts in 56 appearances for Liberty, most of them as the designated hitter.
Injuries prevented Grauer from seeing consistent time on the mound for the Flames during the past two seasons. A broken hand caused him to miss six weeks at the beginning of his sophomore year, and minor arm problems and a hamstring issue bothered him for a portion of this year.
Grauer, now in his third season as a member of the Pilots, and head coach Hank Morgan are planning on shifting his focus from batting to pitching.
“Danny is going to see more time at the mound for us this season to help him prepare for what he might be seeing in the future,” Morgan said.
On Thursday, in his first start after being drafted, Grauer pitched five scoreless innings against the Petersburg Generals, giving up only two hits and striking out four batters.
As for his future, Grauer said that he wanted to take some time to decide what was best for him and was listening to advice from former teammates and coaches.
“The best advice I've received is that if the opportunity presents itself, you have to take it,” he said. “So if the offer is there for me to take, I'll probably take it.”
Grauer said that for now, he's uncertain that he'll be offered a contract with the Reds or return to Liberty for his final year of eligibility. He likely will not know his plans for certain until closer to July 15, the final day that MLB teams can sign their draft picks.
“It depends on the other draft picks, if they sign, how much they sign for, and if any money is left,” he said. “It's really just a waiting game for me. The scouts are going to watch me pitch a couple more times this summer, and then we will see what happens. I'm just going to take everything one day at a time.”Copyright © 2015, CT Now