With their 30th-round pick of Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft this year, the Tampa Bay Rays selected Great Lake Canadians right-handed pitcher Eric Cerantola, making him the eighth player chosen in the five years of the program.
Leading up to the draft, Cerantola was consistently labelled the top Canadian high school pitching prospect among those eligible for the selection process. Committed to Mississippi State University, the native of Oakville approached the draft with a big ask from teams, knowing they would have to beat the value of his future with the Bulldogs.
“I valued a little bit of everything, what I thought it was worth, and valuing my schooling and my scholarship and the opportunity that I had going to Mississippi State,” Cerantola said. “But also looking at the upside potential, overall I think it was the right decision…
“Overall, I’m happy with how things went. I was asking for a good amount, knowing I had more of a chance of ending up going to school, and in the end I’m happy with my decision, and I’m looking forward to school. Being drafted in the 30th round by Tampa is an honour, but from part of Day 2 on, I had a pretty good idea that I was going to be going to school.”
From the beginning Cerantola had his eyes on the draft board, waiting to see and hear the name of his Canadian Junior National Team teammate – and fellow Canadian Premier Baseball League player – Noah Naylor. Once Naylor came off the board – as the 29th overall pick, chosen by the Cleveland Indians – and the third day of the process approached, the Great Lake pitcher’s attention on the draft faded.
“The first day, I watched most of the draft,” Cerantola said. “I started, and as soon as Noah got drafted I kind of laid back a little bit and went to bed a little earlier, but I was waiting for Naylor to get selected. And then on Day 2, I followed it, and on Day 3, I would peek once in a while…
“I wasn’t quite sure where Noah was going to end up, but as it got near the end of the first round, I had a feeling that he was going to be picked soon. I sent him a text congratulating him, and he thanked me, and it’s going to be cool to see what happens to him over the next couple of years.”
Cerantola was the 12th Canadian selected in the draft, among a group that would eventually become just 19 players from north of the border to be chosen.
“It’s pretty incredible to be one of just 19 Canadians drafted,” he said. “It’s an incredible feeling, and overall it’s pretty cool. Just looking at how many kids play the sport, and to be one of 19, it’s quite an honour.”
With a chance to take an opportunity to play professional baseball as the days dwindled down to the draft, as the process went on, Cerantola grew more and more excited to join the Bulldogs.
“Leading up to the draft, my upside was brought up a lot, and knowing that a lot of people were looking at that side of things, I knew that either way – if I go to school or if I were to sign – it’s going to be a development process, and I was just waiting,” Cerantola said. “If everything lined up, it could have led to the pro side, but I’m really pleased with going to school and having the next three years at Mississippi State.”
Currently, Cerantola’s future team is in the midst of the College World Series in Omaha, with at least one Canadian fan keeping an eye on their success, excited to be a part of it soon.
“I’ve been following it,” the right-hander said. “It’s pretty crazy. They’re on a run right now, and seeing the team and knowing that it’s a pretty young team the position side of things is exciting. It’s going to be a newer pitching staff, but just seeing how the guys are playing, it’s easy to visualize yourself to be a part of that, and it’s exciting.”
Leaving soon to head off to college, Cerantola is looking forward to what lay ahead, and also making some more lasting memories with his Great Lake teammates before he goes.
“I report early to Mississippi State, so I will be going down there for a summer program starting July 9,” he said. “I get back at the beginning of August so I have some time back home. Leading up to that, I will be playing in the two tournaments with Great Lake and those should be a blast.”
Though Cerantola isn’t heading off into the pro ranks just yet, the draft was an exciting time and an enjoyable process for the 18-year-old and he is proud to be one of the names selected.
“It’s quite cool,” he said. “Especially Tampa – Tampa wasn’t a team that I thought I’d get drafted to, but it’s quite exciting. They called and said congrats, and at that time they didn’t know how much money they had left, but they mainly just called me to congratulate me and stuff like that. The whole thing went well and I was happy to hear my name.”