Cindy Bither
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VMI Major League Baseball Drafts Start Out Strong

FullTextImage/img/@altConnor Bach '14 and Reed Garrett '15 were selected in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. – Photos courtesy of VMI Athletic Communications.

LEXINGTON, Va., June 27, 2014 – It’s every Little Leaguers dream: to someday take all of that hard work on the baseball field and transfer it to the major leagues. A pair of VMI players is one step closer to realizing that dream.

Connor Bach ’14 and Reed Garrett ’15 both were recently selected in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, Bach going in the 21st round to the Washington Nationals and Garrett selected in the 16th round by the Texas Rangers. Both have signed with their clubs, and their professional baseball careers are under way.

“I have always had the dream of playing professional baseball, and to find out that my dream came true is like nothing I have ever experienced in my life,” said Garrett. “It was everything I have been working for my entire life.”

Garrett made his debut with Texas’s short-season club in Spokane, Wash. He won his first professional start, going five innings while allowing only one earned run on five hits and striking out five.

“Monday night was the first opportunity I had to prove myself,” Garrett said. “I was excited to take the mound and showcase my ability.”

VMI head baseball coach Marlin Ikenberry ’95 was not surprised the right-hander had stellar first outing.

“He’s one of the few four-pitch guys in our program who can dominate with all four pitches,” said the coach. “When they have that, you know when they make the transition to pro ball they are going to be successful.”

Bach, a left-hander, also had a successful debut in his first professional outing. Against the Cardinals affiliate in the Gulf Coast League, he came out of the bullpen to toss two scoreless innings, striking out one and earning the victory.

These first pro appearances were the next step in what has been a maturation process of sorts. As a freshman at VMI, Bach tossed just one-third of an inning, but by the time he reached his senior season, he was a weekend starter and part of a staff that set a school record for earned-run average. Garrett started his VMI career as a middle reliever, before leading the team in victories, including a no-hitter over Lafayette, and ERA.

While getting drafted was a dream for Garrett, accepting the offer was a different matter. To sign with the Rangers, he had to forego his final season at VMI, and making that decision wasn’t an easy one.

“It was a difficult decision to leave my teammates and close friends that I have made since matriculating in 2012,” Garrett admitted. “I had to weigh the pros and cons of foregoing my senior season, and ultimately this was a decision I could not turn down.”

However, it was not a decision he had to make alone. Ikenberry was, of course, consulted in the process, and he was more than willing to offer his advice.

“I played devil’s advocate with Reed a little bit,” Ikenberry said, “explaining to him the nature of the business. He felt very comfortable that it was a good time for him to make that jump, and I told him I’d support him in that decision.”

The decision came with one caveat, however. As with other juniors who decided to leave the program early, Ikenberry made Garrett promise to come back and finish his degree at VMI. Garrett plans on doing just that, and he knows that life at VMI, both in the barracks and on the baseball field, has prepared him for what lies ahead in professional baseball.

“The coaching staff has been a tremendous help to me throughout my three seasons on post,” he said. “I am thankful for their help and their belief in me. They want to see their players succeed in whatever road they choose. I couldn’t have advanced in my career without their help.”

“When I recruit kids, I always tell them the Rat Line teaches them three very important attributes: It teaches them to be on time; it teaches them attention to detail; it teaches them how to multitask,” added Ikenberry, who has sent 23 players on to professional baseball during his tenure at VMI, including six who are playing now. “I really feel like our players are prepared for [the professional baseball] lifestyle when they do get the opportunity to play.”

Both Bach and Garrett have that opportunity now, and, as Ikenberry said, “They are living the dream.”

–Chris Floyd