By Eric Carson
Think about the greatest dream you’ve ever had.
That one thing in life you spent every day preparing for and hoping would come true. It doesn’t matter what that dream is, pick yours and then imagine that after 10 years or so of hard work, it suddenly appeared right there in front of you.
And then imagine that all you had to do was pick up a pen and sign your own name on a piece of paper and it was a reality.
Just like that, you’re a movie star, a doctor, or maybe a professional baseball player.
Pass the pen, right?
Well, not so fast.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Seattle Mariners selected Deering High School senior Regan Flaherty with the second pick of the 28th round in the 2009 Major League Baseball draft.
That statement alone is incredible.
To have a kid from Portland, Maine selected in the MLB draft out of high school as a positional player is more than uncommon. In fact, this draft could be the first time it’s ever happened, or darn near close to it. Even more amazing is that it pretty much happened twice this year.
Matt Watson, Flaherty’s teammate growing up, as well as at Deering for three seasons before Watson transferred before the start of this school year to Pompano Beach High in Florida, was selected in the 26th round by the Houston Astros.
This is serious stuff, teetering on surreal.
Prior to this draft, the highest positional player ever drafted from the state of Maine was Flaherty’s big brother, Ryan, the 41st selection in the 2008 supplemental first-round by the Chicago Cubs.
But Ryan, though equally impressive during his championship days back at Deering, was a 21-year-old junior in college coming off three dynamic seasons of big-time Division I baseball as the shortstop for the Vanderbilt University Commodores.
Regan Flaherty is just 18-years-old and that’s where this dream, his life-long dream, gets just a little complicated.
Now this certainly isn’t a poor-me story, things aren’t so bad for the slugging first basemen. He’s both ecstatic and rightly proud on what has to be at the very least one of his greatest days. It’s just that the big business of baseball, and life, is making it a little bit harder for him to reach out and grab that pen like the rest of us would in a heartbeat.
“It’s a good feeling,” said Flaherty. “It’s what you dream about from the very first time you pick up a baseball. It was a big rush. I was on the phone with my dad and I heard them say ‘Flaherty’ on TV and all of the sudden I thought maybe they did take me. My mom was in the room and she said ‘did you just get drafted?’ I was like ‘shh,’ and then I looked up and saw my name coming across the ticker and it was like ‘wow!’ I didn’t think a lot of people would be watching. but all the sudden I got like 20 text messages in a row. Someone texted my brother and he called. My grandfather heard and drove over to the house.”
This is all way beyond good news of course. But the issue at-hand for Flaherty, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound lefthander, is that just like Ryan, he’s booked on a full-ride to Vanderbilt next fall and that sure is awful hard to pass up. He’s got the chance to earn a top-flight education for free, play ball in the Southeastern Conference, and oh yeah, highly improve his stock for when he’s eligible to be drafted again after he either turns 21 or completes his junior year at Vandy.
Keep in mind, the Mariners knew all of this and more when they made the decision to select Flaherty in the first place. If nothing else it’s a strong indication that the Seattle braintrust thinks quite highly of his skills. They did their homework, made their phone calls and know what they think it will take to get Flaherty to sign that piece of paper.
Not to mention, Flaherty is hardly alone in this process, seeing as his dad starred for the UMaine Black Bears back in his day and is currently a Hall of Fame coach at the University of Southern Maine.
Ed Flaherty knows all about this process, having played at a high level himself and then guiding Ryan, as well as a host of his own players, through this very same process over the years. The Mariners drafted him anyway.
“My dad is pretty happy,” said Flaherty. “I can tell he’s proud. I didn’t get the chance to be with him when it happened, but he taught me everything I know about this game. My family has been very influential in my life. My mom and dad have been very supportive of everything I’ve ever done, same with my brother and my sister Regina. They have always been very important to me.”
One of the biggest reasons the Mariners selected Flaherty is that Brian Nichols, their top scout in the Northeast, got to see first-hand the type of player that he is over the course of last summer. Nichols managed Flaherty’s all-star showcase team in Southern California and watched the sweet-swinging lefty do damage against the top high school pitchers in the country. At this point, the Mariners and Flaherty are somewhat in the same boat: damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
The difference is that Flaherty still has the upper-hand. Barring the unspeakable, he goes off to Nashville, maybe grows an inch, packs on 15 pounds and dramatically improves his stock for the next time he’s eligible to be drafted.
On the flip side, if the Mariners don’t reach a deal with Flaherty this summer by 11:59 p.m. New York City time on Aug. 15, they lose the rights to sign him unless they’re lucky enough to draft him again the next chance they can in the 2012 MLB draft.
The bottom line is that the Mariners think they have a legitimate shot to sign Flaherty this year.
Maybe they do, that’s not been decided in any way shape or form. The two sides have yet to sit down and have that talk and they still have a little time. The Mariners’ strategy is what they call “draft and follow,” meaning they’ll pay close attention to what Flaherty does during Deering’s run for a third-straight Class A state championship this spring, as well as this summer with his Nova Seafood American Legion team.
When the time is right for both sides, the Mariners will approach Flaherty with a number they think will be enough to entice him to sign on the dotted line.
“Regan definitely deserves this,” said Ryan Flaherty, reached on another bus in the minor leagues. “My family is really proud of him. I was ecstatic when I heard. All my friends were calling me and saying, ‘Little Regan just got drafted out of high school!’ He’s excited and I’m excited for him. My dad and my grandfather are definitely proud. Our grandfather has been to every single one of our games since we were nine, seriously. He’s been like a second father to us and I know he’s very happy.
“The Mariners are going to watch him this summer and then they’ll approach him with an offer. They took him at spot where they obviously think they can sign him. At that time my father and I will have to sit down with Regan and discuss it.”
Until then, and even then, there is one thing that no one can ever take away:
The Seattle Mariners selected Regan Flaherty from Deering High School in the 28th round of the 2009 Major League Baseball draft.
The prospect shuffles on.