BRISTOL, Tenn. – King University baseball alum Cory Rhodes got the phone call every boy growing up playing baseball hopes to get. Last Friday the Pittsburgh Pirates, of Major League Baseball called Rhodes to inform him they were going to sign him to a professional contract.
In two words, Rhodes described his reaction to getting the call on Friday.
Thursday morning Rhodes signed his contract with the Pirates and has been assigned to the Jamestown Jammers, the Class A Short Season Affiliate of the Pirates. He will fly to Jamestown, New York to join his new teammates in Jamestown. The Jammers' season ends on September 1.
"The Monday before I got a call from the Pirates scout informing me that they might sign me, and then I finally got a call around 3:30 on Friday," Rhodes continued. "It has still been a very surreal experience, from this weekend, coming to the Pirates Complex in Bradenton, Florida and getting everything done. Getting that first taste of professional atmosphere is amazing."
Rhodes was the ace of the Tornado staff each of the last two seasons, earning second team All-Conference Carolinas honors each year. During his senior campaign he led the league with 96 strikeouts in 92 and two-thirds innings. He posted a 4.08 earned run average while going 5-5 with a save to lead the Tornado to their second straight Conference Carolinas Tournament runner-up finish.
"Cory embodies what our program is all about," King baseball head coach Blaine Brown said. "He has worked so hard to get to where he is at today. He has always played the underdog role to his advantage. When someone would tell him he couldn't do something or someone was better, he would go out to prove them wrong. He embraced competition, and always wanted the ball. Cory also got it done in the classroom and off the field. He was a true champion both on and off the field. I couldn't be happier for him to see his dream get achieved. I have no doubt he will go in with that same attitude and work ethic and be successful in pro ball."
About his time at King Rhodes said that Brown and pitching coach Luke Howard helped him reach his dream of playing professional baseball.
"Determination and the work ethic that they helped instill in me to continue getting better each and every day and that's what my main focus right now, getting ready for the next month in Jamestown," Rhodes stated.
Rhodes' path to professional baseball hasn't always been easy, starting with his freshman year when he tried out at the University of Central Florida and didn't make the team, leading him to King. However, after not getting drafted in June, he didn't give hope, just kept working towards his goal. Over the summer he has been pitching for the Haysville Aviators in Kansas, helping them to a National Baseball Congress World Series appearance.
"Out of high school, I didn't even play my freshman year, and then when I didn't get drafted I was a little upset at first," Rhodes said. "But I was more determined to get back to work instead of moping or waiting around. It was get ready to keep trying."
Rhodes becomes the first Tornado baseball player to sign with an MLB team since 2008 when Jace Smith signed with the Royals and Eric Allen signed with the Cubs.
"I just want to thank God, my family, the coaching staff and all my teammates at King for believing in me and sending me messages over the last couple days," finished Rhodes. "I want to represent King in the best possible way."