For Derek Fisher, it was more a question of ‘when’ than ‘if’. The when came Thursday at 10:38 p.m. with the 37th overall pick.
The ‘where’ was Secaucus, New Jersey. The ‘why’ was because of honing God-given talent. The ‘what’ was the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
The ‘how’ was with guarded enthusiasm.
Last night, Fisher, a 2011 graduate of Cedar Crest High School, was chosen by the Houston Astros with the 37th overall pick, in the second round of the MLB draft. Currently a junior outfielder with the University of Virginia’s Division One baseball club, Fisher’s selection represents the highest that a Lebanon County native has ever gone in the professional baseball draft.
Fisher, rated as the 26th-best player available by MLB.com, slipped about ten spots from where he was projected to be selected by many major mock drafts. The 6-3, 210-pound left-handed hitter fell out of the first round, following a run on pitchers and high-school prospects.
The Astros are recognized as having one of the deepest minor-league pools of talent among all major league franchises.
“I hope to be drafted,” Fisher told Lebanon Sports Buzz during an exclusive interview in April. “If I knew that (he was going to be taken for sure) people would think I’m some sort of psychic. It’s not something I can guess about. It’s still up in the air. It’s still a couple of months away, but I’m eligible to be drafted.
“I’ve never been a college eligible draftee, so it’s new to me,” continued Fisher. “It’s obviously an exciting time of the year. Our team is full of talent. It’s going to be fun to see how far we go the rest of the year.”
Following his senior season at Cedar Crest, Fisher was selected in the sixth round of the 2011 MLB draft by the Texas Rangers, with the 204th overall pick. But Fisher by-passed a reportedly generous Ranger offer and accepted a full athletic grant-in-aid to play at the University of Virginia.
The slot value of Fisher’s 37th overall selection is believed to be in the $1.5 million range.
“I’ve always grown up to have expectations for myself, probably higher than anyone else’s,” said Fisher, a native of Rexmont, in April. “I know what I’ve been blessed with. I came to UVA to become the best baseball player I can be. We’ve obviously had some very talented guys come through the County. Thankfully, I’m not the first, and that gives me an opportunity to go to people who have gone before me.”
At UVA, Fisher has hit .288 with seven doubles, a triple, three home runs and 23 RBIs in 35 games this spring. The former Falcon, who has not committed an error this season and has one outfield assist, missed 25 games with a broken hamate bone in his right wrist.
Virginia currently sports a 47-13 overall record.
“It was a great experience,” said Fisher of his initial draft experience. “I gave up that experience for something better. Going through that experience in high school, it was a lot of fun. Coming to UVA, it was something that made me a better person and a better baseball player.”
“I’m so proud of the development Derek Fisher has had in this program,” said Virginia head coach Brian O’Connor. “He came in as a very highly touted player that needed to learn how to play the game and learn to develop as a baseball player. His skill set is as good as you’ll find – his ability to run, his athleticism, his hitting ability. All those at-bats and all those games he’s played in here, and then away in the summer, has brought him to the point where he is now. He’s very much a calm, confident player, and that’s what you need out of your veteran players.”
During the first round of the draft, 20 pitchers and 14 position players were selected, 18 of whom were college players and 16 of whom were high schoolers. Fisher went off the board on the third selection of the second round.
“I could come back for my senior year,” said Fisher in April. “It’s obviously a difficult process. To cut something like that short, it would be a difficult decision. If you ask any college baseball player, they would tell you that professional baseball is a dream. To live a dream that I’ve had since I was five, that’s something I wouldn’t give up.
“The goal is just to make baseball simple,” continued Fisher. “Just get quality at-bats and hitting the baseball hard, and be a leader on the field. I want to win a lot of games and see how far we can go.”
While no other Lebanon County resident has ever been selected as high in the MLB draft as Fisher, Lebanon High graduate Sam Bowie was selected with the second overall pick in the 1984 NBA draft. Another former Cedar, Jared Odrick, was chosen by the Miami Dolphins with the 28th overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, while Lebanon native Kerry Collins was taken by the Carolina Panthers with the fifth overall selection in the 1995 NFL draft.
The last Lebanon County native to be taken in the MLB draft was Cedar Crest graduate Kyle Redinger by the Astros in the 11th round of the 2010 draft. Just a handful of local residents have gone on to play in the major leagues.