All Luke Reynolds had to do was look at a calendar to chart a course that would put him on a path to playing baseball under Major League Baseball’s umbrella.
Forced to forfeit two prime years of college baseball after leaving Mississippi State and enrolling at the University of Southern Mississippi, Reynolds knew that time was not on his side.
The Forest native turned 23 on March 20, and the longer he delayed his entry into a club’s minor-league system, the longer his odds of rising through the ranks in a system that would also be drafting prospects from the high-school ranks.
“I wanted to get drafted, so I wanted to have a great year,” Reynolds said.”But I wasn’t dead-set (on playing just one year at USM). I didn’t know how my year was going to turn out.
“I was hoping it would be a one-and-done year, like it’s turned out to be.”
Reynolds, USM’s third baseman, came through with one of the most productive years from a Golden Eagles, finishing as Conference USA’s Player and Newcomer of the Year, a feat unparalleled in league annals.
Tuesday, the call came that he had been hoping for, when the Chicago Cubs selected him in the day’s final round, the draft’s 308th overall selection in the 10th round.
“Sitting by the phone and any time it goes off, you’re looking at it,” Reynolds said. “It was a long day, but it was pretty successful day.”
Reynolds was the second Golden Eagle selected in the first 10 rounds of the 2019 draft, joining right-handed pitcher Nick Sandlin, who had been selected Monday night in the second round by the Cleveland Indians.
It marked the second consecutive year USM had at least two players taken in the draft’s top 10 rounds and the fourth time it had happened in the program’s history.
The two juniors were the only Golden Eagles selected in the three-day, 40-round draft.
East Central Community College left-hander Brooks Warren, a Golden Eagle signee, was taken by the New York Mets in the 20th round as the 590th overall selection, but has told USM that he intends to play in Hattiesburg in 2019.
In his first season with the Golden Eagles, Reynolds led USM in batting average (.389), hits (84), doubles (20), runs (70), walks (65), hit-by-pitch (14), slugging percentage (.699) and on-base percentage (.551). He was second in home runs (15) and runs batted in (61).
Reynolds, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s in business administration, said he had agreed to terms with the Cubs, and would sign for $125,000.
“It was pretty much time for me to get going, but I wanted to make sure that I got paid fairly, which I felt like I did,” Reynolds said. “If didn’t get paid fairly, then there might have been a chance that I came back and play one more year and get my MBA.
“But I got what I thought was fair, for my age and whatnot, so I’m pretty happy with it.”
Reynolds said he likely report next week to the Cubs’ facility in Arizona and then find out where he will be assigned.
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