A pair of Bi-City baseball players were taken Saturday in the first few rounds on Day 3 of the Major League Baseball draft.
Chattahoochee Valley Community College's Nick Jones was taken as a left-handed pitcher by the San Francisco Giants in Round 14. It was the 433rd overall selection.
Jones, 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, was 3-0 with four saves, a 2.92 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 24 innings for CVCC
Former Russell County High standout Tyler Dial was selected a round later by the San Diego Padres as a catcher.
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Dial, 5-10, 185, was a third-team junior college all-American for Gulf Coast Junior College this past season. He batted a team-leading .402 with five home runs, 56 RBIs and 49 runs scored.
The two took similar paths to make it to Saturday.
Changes in latitude
Dial, a member of the Ledger-Enquirer All-Bi-City baseball first team, signed with Auburn after his senior season at Russell County in 2010.
But he was red-shirted in 2011 before deciding to transfer to Gulf Coast, which is in Panama City, Fla.
"Some people told me it was not a good decision to leave Auburn," Dial said. "But my family discussed it, and it was the right decision to go to a juco and get as many reps as as I could and be seen (by scouts)," he said.
"It helped me a lot. It worked out."
Dial, who signed with Columbus State in February, said he has already negotiated with the Padres and expects to sign with them. Dial said he started talking to the Padres after a workout a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta.
Dial's coach at Russell County, Tony Rasmus, said he talked to a number of teams early on Saturday.
"I told them you will not see him smoking, you will not see him drinking," Rasmus said. "I told them that he is a high-character guy. He is a work-aholic. He has been working out with our kids this summer.
"He is a great hitter, and the sky is the limit for him."
Dial is the 10th player selected from Russell County.
Changes in attitude
Jones signed with Valdosta State out of North Gwinnett (Ga.) High in 2010. But he was academically ineligible for his freshman season. He ended up transferring to CVCC, where he batted .264 in 87 at-bats in the 2012 season.
But again, he was battling academic issues when CVCC coach Adam Thomas told him he was down to his last chance.
"He told me 'you only get so many opportunities,'" Jones said. "I didn't want to let him down, let my family down."
Jones said he was tired of being unsuccessful, and that he wanted to start being successful at everything he did.
"I wanted to win at everything," he said, "whether that meant being first to the field, first to the weight room, first to class."
The change in attitude paid off in a big way in his on-the-field performance.
Jones earned second-team junior college all-American honors for this past season. In addition to being the Pirates' closer, Jones batted .393 with seven homers, 17 doubles and 51 RBIs.
"Nick is one of my favorite success stories of all time," Thomas said. "Just the change in him from a maturity standpoint from last year to this year was remarkable.
"Like any 18-19 year old, he was irresponsible. But the change in his mindset, his attitude and his work ethic was tremendous.
"The changes he made in his personal life resulted in this chance for him."
Jones threw with a side-arm motion this past season, but, according to Thomas, that limited his velocity to about 84 mph, but it helped his control.
About a month before the season ended, Thomas made sure that Jones got a chance to show major league scouts what he could do when he threw more over the top. During that session, which was attended by several scouts including the Giants' Andrew Jefferson, Jones' velocity was 90-93.
"That workout was critical," Thomas said. "He wouldn't have gotten this chance without it."
Jones, who has signed with NAIA Georgia Gwinnett, said he expects to fly out to San Francisco on Sunday or Monday. He said he hopes to be able to sign with the defending World Series champions.
Jones, who said he was expecting to be drafted about 10 rounds later, found out he had been selected from his mom, while he was waiting to buy her lunch.
"She called and said you just got drafted in the 14th round," Jones said. "I thought it had to be someone else with the same name."
Jones is the 17th player Thomas has had drafted from CVCC in 14 years.
Changes of positions
Columbus State senior Cameron Griffin was drafted in the 34th round by the New York Mets with overall pick No. 1,016 as a pitcher.
From Dutchtown High in McDonough, Ga., Griffin played third base for the Cougars for the first three years. Midway through this past season, Griffin started pitching. He pitched 20 2-3 innings in 15 games. He gave up up just three earned runs, going 2-1.
"Cameron deserves this as much as any other player," CSU coach Greg Appleton said in a press release. "He has done anything we have asked him to do in his four seasons here and I'm glad to see his baseball career continue."
Changes in rules
Russell County center fielder Anfernee Grier was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 39th round with overall pick No. 1,176.
Grier was projected to be drafted in the first 10 rounds of the draft.
With the new rules concerning the first 10 rounds of the draft and signing players, teams may have shied away from Grier if they thought they would have a hard time signing him. Former Columbus High players Kyle Carter and JT Phillips ran into the same issue. Neither was drafted and eventually went to Georgia.
Grier said Saturday night that he will head to Auburn to play in the fall.
"I was a little disappointed (in not being drafted earlier), but I realize what it is," Grier said. "I got over it pretty quick."
The first two rounds of the draft were held Thursday with Rounds 3-10 on Friday. The draft concluded with Rounds 11-40 on Saturday.