Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
A drive home from the pool on a warm Tuesday afternoon, which happened to be the second day of the MLB draft, ended up changing two VCU baseball players’ lives. Yesterday, right-handed pitcher Connor Gillispie and shortstop Zac Ching received phone calls from major league teams, selecting them in the MLB draft.
Gillispie, who was a junior in 2018-19, was the first to hear his phone ring in the car — Baltimore Orioles scout Rich Morales was on the other end. Morales told Gillispie that Baltimore was going to take him in the ninth round.
Gillispie and Ching, who was a senior last season, were in the car with junior second baseman Steven Carpenter, and the group pulled over to start watching the draft.
“We saw my name get called, it was pretty crazy,” Gillispie said.
Gillispie was the 258th pick overall in the ninth round. The passengers were elated; Ching and Carpenter celebrated with Gillispie on his selection.
— VCU Baseball (@VCUBaseball) June 4, 2019
“I’ve been working my whole life for this,” Gillispie said. “It was really like a surreal moment, everything that I’ve been working for kind of just came true.”
Moments later, Ching’s screen lit up, and the Los Angeles Dodgers were on the phone.
“I was really happy for him and we were still celebrating him getting picked, and I got a call to get ready and everything and I watched my name get picked,” Ching said. “It was a bunch of excitement all around.”
Ching’s name was called in the 10th round as the 311th pick overall.
Gillispie thought he’d be picked on the second day of the draft, but up until the ninth, each round ended without mention of his name.
“I was expecting it to happen, but it was coming down to the wire, so I was getting a little bit nervous,” Gillispie said. “But I was glad that the Baltimore Orioles decided to take me and I’m excited to go play for them.”
The Earlysville, Virginia, native was told by the Orioles that if they were going to take him, it would be after the 10th round, so the ninth-round selection surprised Gillispie.
Gillispie starred on the mound this season for the Rams, starting a career-high 20 games and pitching 86.1 innings with an ERA of 2.50. He struck out 118 in his 20 starts, tied for the most in the NCAA this season with Rams teammate redshirt-sophomore right-handed pitcher Justin Sorokowski.
“I’d just say the last two seasons I’ve had at VCU have really boosted my draft stock,” Gillispie said, who named First Team All-Atlantic 10 this season. “They were both pretty similar, so that shows that it wasn’t a fluke … I just feel I did everything I could to put myself in the position to be drafted in the top 10 rounds, and that’s what happened.”
Ching spent the day anxiously scrolling on Twitter, hoping to see his name during the second day of the draft.
“I was really nervous, especially being a senior, there’s no guarantee about anything that can happen in the first 10 rounds,” Ching said. “I was sitting there refreshing Twitter over and over every five seconds hoping to see my name get called.”
The Lubbock, Texas, native was surprised the Dodgers selected him after not talking to them much leading up to the draft. Ching said he knew the Dodgers were interested because they sent a pre-draft questionnaire at the beginning of the season.
“It was kind of like a big shock at first because I saw my name pop up, and my phone blew up and the Dodgers guy instantly called me,” Ching said. “Then I called coach Stiffler, the whole time I was on the phone — I guess the first 20 or 30 minutes — my phone wouldn’t stop buzzing,” Ching said.
Ching batted .310 this season for the Rams with a team-high 22 doubles, two triples and six home runs. He also had a team-high 31 walks and accounted for 42 RBI this season
“It was an anxious day, and after it finally happened it was great,” Ching said. “A dream come true, honestly.”