Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft has officially begun and for some, including Great Lake Canadians right-hander Eric Cerantola, this year’s process has been a long time coming.
Though the Oakville native got a later start than most in the game of baseball, taking to hockey very early and eventually being selected in the Ontario Hockey League draft before focusing solely on the diamond, he has quickly risen through the prospect ranks since joining Great Lake and getting a longstanding opportunity with the Canadian Junior National Team.
Over the last several months, Cerantola has spent time honing his craft with the Canadians and Team Canada, and the interest he’s garnered on the field has followed him home through the draft process, with interest from a number of major league teams and several visits to his home throughout the off-season from area scouts.
“The questionnaires can be a little overwhelming with the amount of questions,” the 18-year-old said. “Every team needs some information on you and they’re a little bit different. The house visits were good, and I got to meet some new people. They use the visit to get to know you and you do the same. It’s a fun process and I’ve been soaking it all in.”
Cerantola has been trying to embrace every exciting baseball moment he’s had along the way, battling some early nerves when he got his start with the Junior National Team and finally settling in to enjoy his opportunities.
“I was nervous last year when I was pitching with Team Canada because I was competing to make the team, but this year I’ve felt more like I belong on the team,” the 6-foot-5, 195-pound pitcher said. “On the Team Canada side, you’ve always got all the scouts in the back of your mind, but I try to zone in on the zone and it doesn’t really bother me anymore.
“And pitching in a world championship [in Thunder Bay in September] and on Sportsnet [during spring training against the Blue Jays] you play through it and have a blast while doing it….Everyone I know has been really happy for me, and they just want to keep seeing me on TV hopefully. That’s the goal in the end, playing in the majors.”
Committed to Mississippi State University, a powerhouse in the Southeastern Conference currently headed to the super regional round of the College World Series, Cerantola believes that no matter what happens in the draft process, he has a bright future ahead.
“Just knowing that I have my commitment to Mississippi State to [fulfill], or as a backup plan, I can’t lose with the draft,” he said. “That’s my mindset. If the draft goes the way that I hope it does, that could be another opportunity that I have, and if not, I’ll head to Mississippi State, so I can’t lose.”
One person particularly excited to see where Cerantola ends up is Windsor native Jacob Robson, currently an outfielder for the Double-A Erie Seawolves in the Detroit Tigers organization. Robson was drafted in the eighth round in 2016 out of Mississippi State, and is looking forward to what the future holds for the young hurler.
“You never know what you’re going to feel until your name pops up,” Robson said. “Every rep that you’ve ever done is for that. Then once you finally see that, whether it’s the first round or the 30th round, it’s a huge honour and the excitement might sway your decision. For me, I didn’t give into that temptation, but for others it might be different.
“I’m not going to tell [Cerantola] what to do. I know I had an amazing time at Mississippi State. I know if he goes there, he’ll have a great time there. And if he chooses pro ball, that’s great for him too. I’m excited for all the Canadians in the draft, especially him. I hope Eric does well and the best of luck to him.”
On Baseball America’s Top 500 prospects list, the latest ranking had Cerantola at No. 323, while MLB Pipeline listed the righty at No. 189. Among Canadians in the draft, Canadian Baseball Network has Cerantola ranked at No. 3 behind his Team Canada teammate Noah Naylor and University of Kentucky outfielder Tristan Pompey.
“It’s going to be fun seeing Noah go off the board,” Cerantola said. “Playing with him for the past year-and-a-half now, I’ve gotten to see the exposure that he’s been getting and just how good he is, and it’s been great. It’s going to be fun to see where he goes in the draft, and hopefully it happens pretty high. To see that will be pretty cool.”
Looking forward to seeing any name he knows selected in the process, Cerantola has tried to temper expectations for himself and enjoy another moment as it comes.
“I’ve tried to set aside any expectations and just be excited for the draft,” he said. “Everyone has talked about how long it is and that you just kind of sit through it, but if it happens, it’s surreal to be drafted into MLB. I’m just excited to see how it goes.”