Three University of Central Arkansas baseball players were selected during the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft this week to the Kansas City Royals.
Tyler Gray, a senior from Fort Smith, was named during the seventh round on Tuesday with juniors Hunger Strong, from Sheridan, following in the 25th round and William Hancock, from Little Rock, after him in the 31st.
The UCA Bears has had 10 draftees in the past eight seasons.
The Log Cabin Democrat spoke with the three latest draftees Friday night, after their first full day in Surprise, Arizona.
Strong said the past few days have been an awesome experience.
“You never know when you’re going to get your name called so once it happens, it’s really exciting but it’s really fast-paced,” he said. “I got a call on Wednesday and, next thing I know, Thursday, I’m flying to Arizona. It’s all kind of fast, but it’s awesome.”
Surprise Stadium located at the Surprise Recreation Campus Athletic Facility is where the Royal’s attend spring training and currently, the place all rookies are reporting.
Gray said seeing Strong’s and Hancock’s names being called to the same organization he had been selected by was something he never thought would happen but all three are thankful they have each other through this new experience.
The trio grew up playing baseball and playing professionally has always been a desire but the game has ended up being much more than that for each of the players.
“They call it a game of failure, and especially as a hitter, it is,” Strong said.
He said playing throughout the years has taught him a lot about adversity.
“I’m confident that I’ll be able to handle whatever the world throws at me now because of what this game’s taught me,” Strong said.
He said as they move forward, he’s most excited to see what he can do.
“We’ve been given the opportunity now and we’re going to be able to see just how good we are and however far we make [it] you know what, a lot of people don’t get that opportunity and we’re going to get to know for sure,” Strong said.
Gray said no matter what, baseball is a part of them but it’s not what defines them.
“We plan on being great men and people of God too,” he said. “I’d say all three of us agree with that but this game can just teach you a whole lot about life and it’s crazy how people can take this game and get caught up in it and it ruins it for you.”
The three said they are eager to be students of the game and learn from the people, coaches and players, who have been around for so long and are thankful for the ones who have brought this this far.
Hancock said the staff at UCA did a great job of helping the players along the way, nudging them in the right direction and pushing them to work hard and grow.
“They know what they’re doing in getting you prepared for stuff like this,” Gray said.
Strong said UCA Coach Allen Gum game him the opportunity to play Division I baseball, and he’ll always be thankful for that.
“If I wouldn’t have gotten that opportunity there’s no doubt I wouldn’t have gotten this opportunity,” he said. “He did a lot for me, he pushed me really hard.”
Each said being with their families when they got the announcement was special.
Strong’s dad coached him growing up.
“He shaped me into the baseball player that I am and the man that I am so getting to experience that with him and seeing the excitement on his face, you know, kind of knowing making him proud like that, it was a really amazing moment,” he said. “Knowing that I made it to the pros and knowing there’s no way I could’ve done it without them and getting to experience that with them is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Ben Madison, who was drafted in the ninth round by the San Francisco Giants, from Central Baptist College was also selected during the draft but was unreachable by press time Saturday.