Each year there are high school baseball players who are forced to decide between attending college after graduation or following their dreams of playing professional baseball.
Although some decide to jump straight into pro ball, there are others who realize they aren’t quit ready for it.
In 2013, left-handed pitcher Eric Lauer decided attending Kent State was the right path for him, despite being the top high school product in Ohio that year.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Lauer said. “It took awhile to make the final call.”
Lauer ended up being selected in the 17th round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft, but stuck with his decision and attended Kent State in the fall.
“Coming out of high school I wanted to get a degree,” Lauer said. “I knew I could do that in three years in time the time it would take to get drafted.
“I chose Kent State mainly because of (pitching coach) Mike Birkbeck. I heard so many great things about him and how he develops pitchers so well. I figured it’d be the best way for me to develop as a pitcher in order to get selected at a high draft spot or to even just get me to the major leagues.”
Lauer’s decision to attend college has paid off. Now a junior at Kent State, he’ll graduate this spring with a degree in business, while also potentially being a first round pick in June’s MLB Draft.
MLB.com currently ranks Lauer as the 38th prospect in their preseason rankings.
“It’s nice to have people recognize me,” Lauer said. “Preseason stuff is speculation. You still have to go out and perform and to try those people right instead of wrong.”
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound left-hander is coming off of a strong sophomore season, going 5-4 with a 1.98 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 86 1/3 innings.
He also put together an impressive summer pitching in the prestigious Cape Cod League, tallying a league-high 50 strikeouts in 39 2/3 innings.
“I loved the Cape Cod League,” Lauer said. “It was a great summer. I met some really cool people and some great baseball players. It was awesome to be able to compete against the best players in the country and see how you stack up against everyone else. To be successful competing at that level was a confidence booster.”
Lauer possesses four effective pitches and mixes them well. His best pitch is his fastball, which sits in the low-90s. He also throws a slider, curveball and changeup.
During the offseason Lauer worked on his repertoire, improving his changeup and developing more of a definite out pitch, he said.
If Lauer can show improvement and build off last year’s success, he has a chance to move up draft boards. Plus, already going through the draft process once will help him, as he now knows what to expect.
“Talking to scouts and talking to everybody isn’t as intimidating as it was,” Lauer said. “The scouts have said that I seem a lot more confident and more relaxed around them since I’ve been through it.”
Lauer is content with his decision to attend Kent State coming out of high school, instead of going straight into professional baseball. Now, he’s just ready to have a productive junior season and hopefully lead his team deep into the NCAA Tournament.
“I definitely think it was the right choice coming out of high school,” Lauer said. “I was really nervous to start a career. I didn’t know if I was ready. Now I have a degree and I think I’ve developed well to show that coming to college I didn’t just level off. I got better.”
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