Silver Knight draft board tells an amazing story

Keep your eyes open.

The draft board, for lack of a better term, is located on the walkway behind the stands down toward the Nashua Silver Knights locker room at Holman Stadium.

If you’re not paying attention, you might miss it. Perhaps it should be right there as fans enter the park throught the main gate, because it’s something that tells them a lot about what they’re about to see and what summer college wooden bat baseball is all about.

It’s about getting players better so they can do well for their schools and eventually move on to the next level. The board lists the 15 names of former Silver Knights who have been drafted in past years by Major League teams and the organizations they belong to.

It will get bigger, as six more were plucked by Major League teams last week, part of a crew of 38 players with Futures Collegiate League ties.

“The guys that we thought were going to get drafted did,” Silver Knights manager B.J. Neverett,who brought all those players to Nashua. “I pay attention, they’re all good New England kids, but you’ve got to give the coaches at those schools credit for sending them here, too. They know what they have. They know when they sign a kid (to a scholarship), they have a chance. … These kids are good. We’ve had some really, really good players here. It’s good baseball.”

When fans come in, a lot of them don’t know what they’re watching. They think they may be watching a minor league team, because the franchise (and the league) is run that way. These are college players, mainly assigned to the FCBL teams by their coaches, to keep playing over the off season and also get used to wooden bat play – some colleges use those now, but this prepares them more for the pro level.

Last week’s draft saw former Knights lefty pitcher Kevin Magee (St. John’s) drafted in the ninth round by the Orioles, outfielder Charlie McConnell (Northeastern) in the 13th round by the Mariners, pitcher Seth Pinkerton (Hartford) the 20th round by the Twins, local favorite Mickey Gasper of Merrimack in the 20th round by the Yankees, and infielder Max Burt (Northeastern) in the 28th round by the Yankees. The big one was Bedford’s Grant Lavigne, the 42nd pick overall by the Rockies. Lavigne, who played for Bedford High School in the Division I title game Monday night, would have been a Silver Knight bound for Wake Forest but he’s not going to pass up that $1.7 million draft slot.

The Knights are also in a race to see if they can be the first FCBL franchise to have a player make the Majors. Chris Shaw is in Triple A with the Giants, a player Boston College assigned to the Silver Knights back in 2012 when the FCBL allowed a limited number of recent high school grads to play in the league the summer before their college freshman season. Former Torrington pitcher Mike Gibbons – he started against Nashua in a 2014 playoff game — was at Double A earlier this year in the Mets system, but he is bouncing back from Tommy John surgery and is not on the 40-man roster. Shaw looks like he could be the first by far. A left fielder, he’s hitting .262 with 11 homers and 33 RBIs, slugging .537 with an OPS of .845 while playing left field for the Sacramento River Cats. “B.C.gave him to us,” Neverett said. “He lived in the area and this is where he wanted to play. We have a great relationship with (Boston College) and a great relationship with Northeastern….We’d love to be the first. We’d be ecstatic.”

Knights first base coach Jeff Dupont put it in perspective for the fans, many who frequented Nashua Pride days. “This is the opposite,” he said. “People got excited about Ricky Henderson and Jose Canseco, guys who were at the end. These guys are just beginning.”

Neverett certainly expects the Silver Knights pro board to grow.

“There are guys here who are going to have a chance,” Neverett said. “They develop more, their experience helps them in this league, they play every day and see what it’s like.”

Silver Knights pitching coach Kyle Jackson, a former Red Sox minor leaguer, knows exactly what it’s like and knows what the newest Silver Knight draft class (if we can call it that) is in for.

“It’s more of a wakeup call because now it’s a job,” Jackson said. “When you go into your first clubhouse, it’s a culture shock to realize you’re a small fish in a big, big pond. Everyone wants to move up a level and everyone’s after your job. …

“I always tell these kids, you make it, enjoy it. Listen, have fun.”

For the fans, coaches, etc. who know what they’re seeing, the benefits are many.

“It’s been fun,” Neverett said. “We’re up to 21 guys now in eight years. That’s pretty good.”

Good enough, we say, to put that board out front and center.

Tom King can be reached at 594-1251, or@Telegraph_TomK.tking@nashuatelegraph.com