Drew DeMartino remaining upbeat as he weighs his baseball options

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Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct Nick Dombkowski's name.

In three weeks, hundreds of high school and college baseball players will know if they'll get to take a next step toward becoming professionals and perhaps even Major League players.

But for players like Pittsfield's Drew DeMartino — eligible to be drafted after completing his abbreviated junior season at the University of Hartford — the fact that Major League Baseball is cutting its draft from what had been a three-day, 40-round event to a five-round draft that might take one or two days, is not a happy fact.

"I know it's going to save them a ton of money, but it's definitely disappointing," DeMartino said. "You have over 1,000 kids that wouldn't be able to experience the draft, were supposed to be drafted and possibly gone on to [a baseball career]. It's kind of upsetting to have kids that were expecting to go this year. I know [Nick] Dombkowski here was expecting to go and definitely should have."

The Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft is, as of now, scheduled for June 10. There will be only 160 players selected in the five rounds, plus compensatory picks. That compares to the 1,267 players selected in the 40-round draft of 2019. According to Baseball America, 960 of the 1,267 signed professional contracts after last year's draft.

"I had heard from a couple of teams. I heard from the Marlins and the Padres," DeMartino said. "I was just trying to focus on the year, and I never really got into any of them. It was more just generic contact that they'd possibly be following me."

Players that will be drafted this year will receive portions of their bonus money right out of the gate. When players sign, they'll receive $100,000 for the first year, with 50 percent of the remaining bonus in 2021 and 2022.

Players who were not drafted would be eligible to sign as free agents, and receive a maximum $20,000 bonus.

According to an article in Baseball America, "if a college junior goes undrafted, he can either sign for a maximum of $20,000 or return to school, knowing his negotiating leverage will be limited the following year as a senior sign. Depending on the NCAA's decision on eligibility, college juniors would also have to risk returning and competing for bonuses next year with a much larger pool of senior players on top of competing for playing time with an extremely talented incoming freshman class."

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In addition, MLB teams have no limit on the number of free agents that can sign.

DeMartino sports a career .253 batting average with 44 runs and 36 runs batted in 87 games played. Earning a spot on the America East All-Tournament Team on two occasions, he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the conference tournament as a rookie in 2018 after combining for six hits and four RBI during Hartford's historic postseason run. DeMartino was ranked No. 3 in the league in walks (10), No. 5 in home runs (2) and No. 9 in slugging percentage (.450) in 2020.

He was batting 250 after Hartford's first 12 games. He started 12 times, primarily at second base, and had two home runs and six RBI.

The aforementioned Dombkowski is also a junior, who came out of West Springfield High School. The right-handed pitcher was 3-0 with a 0.90 earned-run average for the Hawks. He made three starts, threw 20 innings, had 20 strikeouts and only four walks.

"Obviously, my goal is to play professional baseball," DeMartino said. "I think going back to Hartford would be good. I'm pretty much back to the grade I'm supposed to be, baseball wise, because of me leaving early [from Taconic High School], so I'm just trying to experience one more year. I'd get my degree and everything too.

"I kind of want to just be with the guys."

But since DeMartino, and spring sport athletes throughout the nation were given an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA, he said that's something that he might consider as well.

"I'd much rather go back and spend my junior year with them, and who knows about grad school. I could go back to Hartford for grad school with my senior year of baseball," he said. "I'd definitely like to [take advantage of the extra year]. I love Hartford. For me, it's whatever I decide. If I want to do grad school or what I'd like to do in grad school. I'll probably take a year to decide with that, what I'd want to study. I definitely would like to do my senior year, get my fourth year in and play."

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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