BY PEDRO VELAZCO KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — Kokomo native T.J. Weir had two summer plans after graduating Ball State last month.
One was to take his degree in finance and head to Carmel to begin working for WestPoint Financial. That was the secure option, but also the secondary option.
The other, primary option, was completely up in the air.
Weir's primary option came knocking late Friday night with a phone call from a San Diego Padres scout, and half a day later, it presented itself officially as the former Wildkat and Cardinal standout was selected by the Padres in the 17th round of the MLB draft.
"The area scout for the Padres called me [Friday] night around 11 o'clock and asked if I was ready to sign and ready to go," Weir said. It was his first solid indication he'd get drafted. "I asked, 'What round are we looking at?' He said, '17th, maybe 20th.'"
So on Saturday, Weir camped out at home in Kokomo with his parents to monitor the draft.
"A couple of my friends and my girlfriend were over here hanging out [on Saturday] ... just listening to a feed online and heard my name, ended up hugging each other," the former KHS three-sport standout said. "[The scout] ended up calling two minutes later and started talking details."
Given his uncertainty, getting picked at all was a thrill, and getting picked up so early was a bonus.
"It was earlier than I expected," he said. "It was a surprise that it was that early but it was obviously awesome. It's a great feeling to go in the top half of the draft and I went 17th."
He was the 507th overall selection. The draft is 40 rounds.
Weir just wrapped up his senior season at Ball State. After splitting time as a pitcher and position player for three seasons, Weir was primarily used as a starting pitcher as a senior. He made 19 appearances, including 15 starts, and logged a team-high 99 2/3 innings. He struck out 117 with just 39 walks. He earned all-Mid-American Conference honors.
The righty pitcher had an 8-2 record, helping Ball State win the MAC regular-season title. That capped a major upswing for the Cardinals after the squad struggled in the bottom third of the conference in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
With his selection, Weir begins a whirlwind process almost instantly.
"The plan is to head out [today], fly out to Arizona," Weir said. "It's a three-day minicamp. Then, they send the top 25 players they evaluate to a short season, the top A ball team in Eugene, Oregon.
"It's crazy. I didn't expect to have to leave [today], but you can't be mad that you're heading out to play professional baseball. It's a relief that it's all over. It's a thrill. Everything is happening really fast, but it's really exciting."
He has some idea of what the whirlwind is like, and what to expect from minor-league play.
"I've talked to a couple guys, a couple teammates I've played with in summer ball and Ball State, and obviously [former Kokomo teammate] Nolan Sanburn. He's one of my best friends since we played down at UCT," Weir said. Sanburn is currently in the Oakland organization. "It's nice to have somebody to talk to, especially someone like Nolan that I'm close to, to ease into it."
He's not sure yet what the Padres' plan is. As a pitcher, Weir started, relieved and closed during his time with the Cardinals, but was used primarily as a starter as a senior since the Cardinals felt that was his best route to getting a shot at professional ball.
The Padres were the team that had followed him most closely during his senior year.
"I talked to their scout a couple times [during the season], I had a feeling it would be them," Weir said.
It was just fine with Weir that the most interested club was the Padres. Kokomo native and current Arizona pitcher Joe Thatcher broke into the majors with the Padres. When he was picked up by the San Diego club, a young Weir took notice. Thatcher also is a UCT product.
"Yeah, that's pretty cool that it's the team he made it with," Weir said. "I watched a lot of games that he pitched in and saw him do well. Hopefully I can follow his footsteps a little bit."