The 2014 MLB Amateur Draft: The Local Boys

The 2014 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft is tomorrow. It is the light at the end of the long, tiring spring tunnel. From the opening weekend of the college baseball season until the last pick is made in June, life in the Rode household revolves around amateur baseball.

Over the years, several of the kids I have photographed as high school players have made it to The Show. Mike Trout and Wil Myers were the first. Normally, I cover kids for a year or two in high school or college, then they are off to the pros. This year’s draft, however, is somewhat different from the previous six. Two homegrown North Carolina prospects will be drafted this week that I have had the pleasure of covering for the last four to six years as they went from high school to college: Carlos Rodon (LHP at North Carolina State University) and Benton Moss (RHP at the University of North Carolina).

The first time I saw Carlos throw, he was in his senior year of high school. There had been a lot of talk about this pitching prospect from Holly Springs. So we made sure to get out and see him.

It was a rather cold, damp evening, but the scouts came out by the dozens to see Carlos pitch against Green Hope High School. He started out at 87-88 mph and touched 91. By the middle of the game, Carlos was sitting 83-85 mph. Afterward, the consensus was that going to N.C. State would probably be his best option. It would give him a chance to take that step forward that everyone wanted to see.

During a fall game against the USA Baseball 18U National Team, Carlos took the mound for N.C. State and dealt. Everyone was caught by surprise at how quickly he had stepped up in his short time with the Wolfpack. It made me that much more excited for the spring season to arrive.

Being one of the photographers for USA Baseball, I spend my summers working with the different national team programs. Since Carlos was a member of the 2012 and 2013 National Collegiate Teams, I got to work with him quite a bit.

With his N.C. State teammate and top prospect Trea Turner before the 2012 Prospect Classic.

One of the most exciting games I have been to in a while was game four of the USA/Cuba Friendship Series at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Those in attendance were treated to one heck of a show by Carlos Rodon. When he walked off the mount for the last time, the DBAP erupted into cheers. His slider was so good that night, one scout said it was Steve Carlton-esque.

Always near and dear to my heart: athletes going bald to help kids with cancer. When N.C. State partnered with Vs. Cancer, Carlos was nice enough to let this sweet young lady shave his head.

To say it’s been fun covering Carlos Rodon the last four years would be an understatement. I have watched him transform from a 16th-round draft pick out of high school to the potential number one overall pick this year.

Then we have Benton Moss: pitcher, musician, scholar. Pretty much one of the most impressive people you will ever meet. Moss received special permission to attend Rocky Mount High School in order to participate in its International Baccalaureate program.

The first time I saw Benton pitch was at the Impact Invitational tournament that was held at the USA Baseball complex in 2009. To give you an idea of the level of talent that was at this tournament that year, let me throw a few names out there: Richie Shaffer, Wil Myers, Brian Goodwin and Hobbs Johnson. At one point, Moss, Myers, Goodwin and Johnson were all playing in the same game.

These photos were taken two years later at the 2011 Impact Invitational Tournament.

Over the years, we developed a close relationship with Benton and his family. So, moments after the Moss family received word that Benton was awarded the prestigious Morehead-Cain scholarship to UNC, Nathan’s phone blew up with excited, all-caps text messages from his mother, Ashley. We knew no team was going to be able to buy Benton out of that scholarship. His sights were fixed on college.

After one of his games, we stopped to visit with Benton and his mom. When asked if he had any ideas about what he might want to do after baseball, Benton non-chalantly responded with “Well, I’m really enjoying my finance classes. I think I would enjoy working in that field. Or maybe become a doctor.” I started to laugh, not because of his answer, but because I knew he really could do either and be amazing at both—after a successful baseball career of course.

Benton will graduate early from UNC with a degree in both finance and economics.

While at UNC, Benton took on a major role in the baseball team’s Vs. Cancer campaign. Not only has he shaved his head each of his three seasons, but he has also organized events and fundraising campaigns, which helped to raise thousands of dollars.

When the draft starts tomorrow night, I will be anxiously waiting to hear the names of many players called. Carlos Rodon and Benton Moss are at the top of that list.

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