Photo | South Alabama’s Michael Sandle
Courtesy of University of South Alabama
When the Major League Baseball Draft begins Sunday, July 11, there is a great chance UMS-Wright pitcher Maddux Bruns’ name will be called as a first-round selection. Also, former South Alabama player Ethan Wilson could hear his name called that day.
On Monday, July 12, when the draft continues with the second through 10th rounds, if Wilson was not selected on Sunday, he likely will be selected on Day 2, probably early on in the process. There’s also a chance another Mobile player — former UMS-Wright standout Tanner Allen of Mississippi State — will also be selected by Monday.
On Tuesday, the final 10 rounds of the 20-round draft will take place. It is during that time, though he could find himself selected on Monday as well, another player with Mobile ties will join the ranks of those selected in the 2021 MLB Draft — South Alabama outfielder Michael Sandle.
The Navarre, Fla., native had an outstanding senior season, especially in the final six weeks, which included the Jaguars’ Sun Belt Conference tournament victory and runner-up finish in the Gainesville Regional of the NCAA Tournament. With his strong finish to the year — in postseason play he was 14 of 34 at the plate with two home runs, two doubles, two triples, 10 runs scored and eight runs batted in — Sandle improved his draft prospects.
In the coming days, he’ll discover just how much he improved his chances of being selected.
“I don’t know. It’s the first time of me going through this process,” Sandle said. “I’ve had some [teams] reach out. I don’t know what to expect but I’m anxious and excited to see what happens. I would say I have confidence that I’ll get a shot.”
His big finish no doubt will play a role in where he lands and in what round the centerfielder is selected.
“It was a lot of fun,” Sandle said of the season overall, especially the last month and a half. “We kind of knew we could play the way we did that last month, and it kind of sucks that it took us almost a whole year to figure that out, but it was a lot of fun and obviously, it was good for me personally. But I think it’s even better for the program at South Alabama because we hadn’t been in that spot — one game away from a Super Regional — in a long time, so I think it was better for the program to be in that spot to begin with.
“I think I offer a lot, as far as being a good teammate and a natural leader, and then my skills on the field — my speed, defense, hitting for power, hitting for average. I think I provide all the aspects and things that teams are looking for and help them win.”
On the same team with Wilson and batting in the No. 3 spot in the lineup most of the year, Sandle was productive for the Jags. He led the team in home runs (11), runs batted in (50), runs scored (52), hits (72) and total bases (77). He also had 11 doubles, two triples, a .313 batting average, started all 58 games, was successful on 15 of 16 stolen base attempts, had 20 walks, a .389 on-base percentage and .522 slugging average.
South Alabama head coach Mark Calvi said he believes the team that selects Sandle will be happy with that decision.
“The kid is so steady,” Calvi said. “He’s one of the hardest-working players I’ve ever had in 28 years [of coaching]. He’s the same kid every day. He shows up and he’s the most reliable kid, both personally and athletically … You saw steady improvement from him over the last five years. He got here in ’17 and I redshirted him and he was a young player — he didn’t turn 18 until his freshman year in college.
“I threw him into the fire in ’18 and he’s just been phenomenal for us the last four years. He’s a self-made player. He was a very confident football player [in high school] and he was recruited by a lot of Division 1 schools as a defensive back. I’ve seen some of his Hudl tapes and you could see he was a confident player; he wasn’t quite so sure about himself as a baseball player, even though he had all the tools.
“Mike works extremely hard. In the summer of ‘17 going into the Coastal Plains League, he actually played for a former player of mine, Scott Wingo at South Carolina, and Scott really helped him a lot; he got 200 at-bats and it was really a springboard for ’18, ’19 and where we’re at now.”
Calvi said he would be “shocked” if Sandle wasn’t taken in the draft, adding, “It wasn’t like he just kept showing up and suddenly he got good. This guy, morning, noon and night, was eating, sleeping and drinking baseball, He was already on everyone’s radar … The last part of the season he was as good as anybody in the country. He probably hit .350 the last month and a half. He was our go-to guy and he was clutch … He developed opposite-field power and it was super fun to watch him excel the way he did.
“I love all my players, but I’m only human. There’s some I love more than others. Mike Sandle is one of those guys that you pull so hard for because he’s worked so hard. I’ve never seen a kid who is more beloved by his teammates in 28 years than Michael Sandle.”
Calvi said Sandle’s steadiness and his ability to keep his emotions in check will be a huge plus for him in pro ball, when there can be a stretch of days when things don’t go right as well as stretches when everything is working. Calvi said Sandle will hold his emotions in check on both counts and be able to absorb the daily grind of pro baseball.
“I think it’s a positive,” Sandle said of his blue-collar reputation. “You try to get that aspect across to a lot of young athletes across the country and some pick it up and some don’t. But to have a guy who is self-driven and self-motivated, I think that’s a positive because it gives teams less to worry about; they don’t have to watch over me or babysit me.”
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