By Paul Watley | @WatP7
ARLINGTON, Texas - Coming off of a successful 2014 campaign that included a run to the Sun Belt title game, UT Arlington continued to impress as it had a school-record six players taken in the 2014 MLB draft, besting the previous record of four players drafted in 1981 and 2010.
With 57 players who have been selected in the draft, the Mavericks have shown an ability to prepare players for the next level. UT Arlington coach Darin Thomas has made his own mark in this regard, having 17 taken in the draft since he took over the program in 2008.
"One big thing that this shows is that our program is developing players," UT Arlington coach Darin Thomas said. "A lot of these guys weren't drafted before they got here or they improved their draft stock after they got here. Seeing that makes you feel good as a coach because kids want a chance at professional baseball."
Former UTA players have also gone to have great success in the majors as ten Mavericks have gone on to the big leagues. Highlighting the list of current Mavericks in the majors are Dillon Gee, John Lackey and Hunter Pence. Gee, who pitches for the New York Mets, was selected in the 21st round of the 2007 draft and has been on the Mets roster since he made his MLB debut in 2010. Lackey, a 2007 MLB All-Star, was selected in the second round of the 1999 draft and has gone on to win two World Series titles with the Los Angeles Angels in 2002 and the Boston Red Sox in 2013. Pence was taken in the second round of the 2004 draft by the Houston Astros and has become a fan favorite for the San Francisco Giants, where he has become a two-time World Series winner and MLB All-Star.
While the success of having players taken in the draft has been encouraging for UT Arlington, it also provides the challenge of replacing players who are selected. With four out of the six players who were selected in the 2014 draft being juniors for the Mavericks, Thomas and his staff were tasked with replacing key contributors on the squad with short notice.
"It didn't help us this year because we lost so many kids and we were scrambling and trying to get guys," Thomas added. "A little bit of that showed on the field this year with so many new guys, but with success, which is what we had the three previous years, guys are going to get noticed. It just shows that you're developing players and shows potential recruits that they will have a chance to get looked at for the next level."
The 2015 MLB Draft, held in Secaucus, N.J., begins at 5 p.m. Monday and will conclude on June 10.
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