It's been a tough month or so for Rice Owls pitcher Tyler Duffey. There's the disappointment that comes from the way the season ended, losing in the conference tournament and not making it past the NCAA Regionals this past weekend. And nothing can compare to what happened in late April when his mother died.
But on Tuesday, things began to improve just a bit, and it happened just about the time he hit the enter button on his computer, turning in an exam he had just completed. He'd missed the exam because of his mother's death, and he'd received permission from his professor to make it up. He was sitting in the Rice baseball offices as he took the exam, and he had the computer next to him on, and he had the ongoing MLB draft up on that computer.
And just as he submitted his exam, he heard his name announced on the computer next to him. And the reason he heard his name was that the Minnesota Twins had just drafted him in the fifth round of the MLB draft.
"I was sitting in this lounge, taking an exam that I'd rescheduled, and I had it up on the computer next to me, just kind of listening, then I clicked 'submit' on my exam and then I heard my name, and I was like, wait, just did kind of a double take, and that was pretty cool," Duffey said on Tuesday. "Then everybody started calling and so forth. It's awesome. It's wonderful."
Making the story more awesome, more wonderful was that earlier in the day, the Twins had drafted his friend and teammate, J.T. Chargois, in the second round. Chargois, who played first base and DH for the Owls, also shared the same role on the team as Duffey, with both being used to close out games for the Owls.
"It meant a lot," Chargois said. "It just goes to show what the [Twins] thinks of you, getting taken that early. It's just a real honor. I'm happy. I'm proud. I'm excited. My family got to share the experience with me. I'm glad to have this guy [Duffey] along by my side. I'm just ready to start the next chapter of my life."
Chargois had a 4-1 record with a 2.15 ERA and eight saves. Duffey had seven saves with a 1.93 ERA, a .181 batting average against, and he struck out 11.9 batters per nine innings. They're good, and they were perhaps the reason the Owls had as good a season as they did.
Other Owls were drafted, including outfielder Jeremy Rathjen and pitcher Matthew Reckling by the Los Angeles Dodgers, catcher Craig Manuel by the Washington Nationals, pitcher Andrew Benak by the New York Yankees, pitcher Taylor Wall by the Milwaukee Brewers and pitcher/outfielder Chase McDowell by the Pittsburgh Pirates. But Chargois and Duffey were the highest drafted of the Owls this season, and they were drafted by the same team to play the same position, relief pitcher.
"I think they lost their big-time closer that they had, Joe Nathan," Duffey said. "Obviously I'm not presuming anything. I'm just a rookie now. It's a long way from happening, but I guess they had enough faith in both of us to take us, so that means a lot, says a lot about them as a whole entity, a major league baseball team. It says a lot to be picked up. So obviously they have some faith in us."
Being drafted doesn't make up for the way the Owls' season ended. A season ending for the second year in a row on the team's home turf as they were upset in the NCAA Regional, falling short once again of Omaha and the College World Series.
"For me, I mean, not really," Chargois said. "Not at all [does being drafted make up for the loss]. We pride ourselves so much in this program. We've wanted to be here such a long time growing up. We've been given the opportunity to play here, and you never want to go out like that. Especially like we've done the past three years. We wanted to go to Omaha. We wanted to win it all. But somebody's got to lose. Unfortunately, it was us."
It's a long way to go before either Chargois or Duffey makes the major league roster of the Twins. They still have to sign a contract, then there's the whole thing of working their way up through the minors. They'll probably end up competing against each other at some point, both vying for the same role because major league teams do not use two closers. But for a season that ended like this one did for Chargois and Duffey, things are looking up.
"It hasn't been a fun year, that's for sure," Duffey said. "But this makes it a little bit easier."