Brett Huber had gone home to Belleville, Ill., Tanner Bailey home to Little Rock, Ark., their college eligibility used up.
So they waited to see if they’d live to pitch another day. Then Motown came calling.
Huber, the all-time saves leader at Ole Miss, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 31st round. Bailey, mainly a reliever in college, went one round later. That set in motion some fun interaction in the moments that followed from the two veteran Rebel pitchers.
The rounds and selections come fast and furious after the first couple of rounds go by. So there wasn’t that much time between the two selections. Huber was still wrapping his mind around his draft selection and franchise when Bailey’s number came up.
“Right when I texted him,” Huber said of his first interaction with Bailey, “he called me and said ‘We’re going to be teammates.’ It was really cool.”
Huber, the savvy, mature veteran of five college seasons, including a redshirt year in 2009, decided to have a little fun even before those moments.
“I was with my family. They (Tigers) gave me a call, and my parents asked me who it was and if they were going to take me in the next pick,” Huber said. “I didn’t really want to ruin the fun for them, so I didn’t say anything. It got pretty emotional (when they found out). It was pretty cool. We were sitting there talking, and my phone started going off.
“The next thing I know, I see one of my best friends from school, Tanner Bailey, got drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the next round. It was really cool knowing one of your best buds you hang out with in the bullpen every day is going to keep playing ball with you.”
It was a similar situation for Bailey while he waited in Arkansas.
“I was actually sitting on my couch at home, just kinda been waiting all day. I had moved back from Oxford (Friday),” Bailey said. “I was trying to stay around my phone in case anything did happen. I got a text from (UM teammate) Tanner Mathis and he was like, ‘You and Huber are going to be teammates,’ and I was like ‘What’s he talking about?’ My dad said, ‘Yeah, 32nd round, Tanner Bailey. You’re a Detroit Tiger, son.’ It was awesome the way it happened, being at home and all.”
Huber said he’s happy to have the chance to pitch some more.
“It’s a blessing. It’s always been a dream,” he said. “Everybody who plays college baseball and loves the game always wants to go on to the next step. It’s really special. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my family and friends, my teammates and especially the coaches who have done so much for me while I’ve been at Ole Miss.”
Bailey again concurs and is hopeful of more opportunities to continue to play the game he loves. He wasn’t sure that would ever be the case just a few years ago.
“I went to junior college in 2009 and 2010,” Bailey said. “I had rotater cuff and labrum surgery in June, 2010, right before I came to Ole Miss that fall. I sat out and rehabbed 2011. I pitched in 2012 and 2013. A lot of people told me they didn’t know if I would actually play baseball again. I went to see Dr. (James) Andrews. Once I saw him and had the surgery, the day after the surgery he told me I was already ahead of schedule with pretty much anybody he’s had before. He told me to my face I was going to be fine. He said he had no doubts I would be performing at a high level.
“Then for Coach (Mike) Bianco and the coaches to have faith after I was hurt, that was great. (Team trainers) Tony (Barnett) and Josh (Porter), they did a great job getting me back to where I needed to be and now to stay healthy.”
Both await instructions to report to Lakeland, Fla. But both leave Ole Miss and their hometowns knowing the past few years helped them get to where they are today.
“It’s been great,” Huber said of the last five years. “Oxford’s a great town and I’ve gotten so much love from all the fans and my teammates. I couldn’t have played for a better coach. I love Coach (Mike) Bianco. When you’re gone from your family for so long, he does so many great things and just the person he is. He’s one of the best coaches in baseball, and he will be for a long time. I can’t thank him enough. And Coach Laff (Carl Lafferty), my pitching coach. We’ve worked so hard with each other. He’s helped me be the pitcher I am today, to be tough and confident. It’s been a blessing to be at Ole Miss. Now my dream came true to go play major league baseball.”
“It was somewhere I always wanted to go,” Bailey said. “Even out of high school I was recruited some by Ole Miss. Finally getting there, it was everything I dreamed of. It felt like home. Being there three years, it was really hard to leave. I met a lot of great people, had great coaches, Coach B, Coach Laff, and Coach (T.J.) Beam coming in this year, they’ve just been tremendous. And all the support staff, it’s just been fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for a better three years of college than at Ole Miss.”
Additionally, drafted players on the current Ole Miss team were junior Stuart Turner, the 78th overall pick by the Twins in the third round, junior right-handed pitcher Mike Mayers, the 93rd overall pick by the Cardinals in the third round, and junior right-handed pitcher Bobby Wahl, a fifth-round pick by the A’s, the 161st player chosen.
Turner and Mayers are expected to sign and report to professional baseball. With Wahl there remains some uncertainty as to whether he will sign or turn pro.
Among the large group of Rebel signees, only three were drafted.
Left-handed pitcher Cody Reed from Northwest Mississippi Community College was taken in the second round by the Royals, the 46th overall pick. He is reportedly either set to sign with the Kansas City franchise or already has.
Middle infielder Dalton Dulin was a 36th round selection by the Phillies. It is reported that the Philadelphia franchise will watch Dulin play this summer and then there will be talks as to whether he will attend Ole Miss or head for the pros.
Outfielder J.B. Woodman was drafted by the Mets in the 40th and final round, but he has indicated he will attend Ole Miss. — Jeff Roberson, OMSpirit.com