For this week’s column, I want to focus on a couple of different things from the University of Central Arkansas.
The Kansas City Royals’ 20th round selection of UCA pitcher Cody Davenport allowed Davenport to be the 10th Bear selected in MLB’s First Year Player Draft since 2013.
Alongside Davenport’s selection are Tyler Gray (2018, eighth round by Kansas City), Hunter Strong (2018, 25th round by Kansas City), William Hancock (2018, 31st round by Kansas City), Ty Tice (2017, 16th round by Toronto), Tyler Gray (2017, 20th round by Minnesota), Doug Votolato (2014, ninth round by Texas), Forrestt Allday (2013, eighth round by Boston), Jonathan Davis (2013, 15th round by Toronto) and Jeffery Enloe (2013, 37th round by San Diego).
A couple items of note: Tyler Gray elected not to sign a contract with the Twins in order to come back to UCA; and Bear fans could eventually become Royals fans if they aren’t already with four selections by Kansas City in the last two seasons.
Davis is the lone player from this group that has made it to the Major League level, getting called up last season and once again this season.
Davis has since been optioned to Triple A since making possibly the greatest catch in the MLB this year in late May against Tampa Bay.
Allday, who made it as high as Triple A and had a stint in 2016 with the Arkansas Travelers, now plays for Independent Professional Baseball team Kansas City T-Bones.
Enloe only has stats through 2014, Votolato has stats through 2015, Tice is putting up pretty good numbers at Double A New Hampshire, Strong has “used to play baseball” in his Twitter bio, Hancock is listed on the Rookie League Idaho Falls Chukars roster and Gray is pitching for Single A Lexington Legends.
But, those 10 guys are not the only guys UCA baseball coach Allen Gum has seen drafted from teams he has coached.
There certainly could be more, but I found 16 players drafted between his time at UCA and Southern Arkansas University, including a 2010 first-round selection when the Chicago Cubs selected pitcher Hayden Simpson with the 16th overall pick.
Along with getting his 500th career win this season, the amount of players Gum has seen go through his program and move up to higher levels of baseball is a testament to how he runs his programs and I hope to sit down with him one day soon to discuss that.
The other topic I wanted to discuss is the brutal nonconference schedule the UCA men’s basketball released this week.
With the Southland Conference making schools play a couple more conference games this season, the men’s basketball team will face some storied programs.
The Bears will face five different teams that played in postseason tournaments in nonconference play with Baylor, Duke and Marquette playing in the NCAA Tournament and Georgetown and Wichita State playing in the National Invitational Tournament.
Of course, Duke is the highlight team here, reaching the Elite Eight and having coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Duke is losing Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish to the NBA draft, but Duke is usually one of if not the best college basketball team in the nation.
Wichita State generally makes the NCAA Tournament, Patrick Ewing has Georgetown playing better and Baylor is usually tournament bound.
Marquette is interesting because of one of the nation’s most prolific scorers Markus Howard is former UCA player Jordan Howard’s brother and came to UCA on a visit when Jordan was playing.
The nonconference will be tough but one thing I’m sure of, the nonconference will not get Pennell fired as 103.7 The Buzz’s Drive Time Sports crew seemed to suggest.
Indeed, among others, it is a fun time to be a UCA fan.