From different parts of the eastern seaboard, two Ole Miss baseball players ponder a future that may or may not include a resumption of their college careers.
Shortstop Anthony Servideo and third baseman Tyler Keenan played major roles in a 16-1 start that saw Ole Miss – unranked in a number of preseason polls – climb into the top 10.
Then their season and possibly their careers ended abruptly when college baseball players across the country returned to their homes amid efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Although the NCAA has extended eligibility for all spring sports athletes, juniors like Servideo (at home in Boca Raton, Florida) and Keenan (in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina) could move on of their own choosing.
How they and many underclassmen fit in what will almost certainly be an abbreviated Major League Baseball draft – perhaps just five rounds – remains to seen.
Keenan led the Rebels in batting average (.403), home runs (7), RBIs (33) and total bases (53) after the team’s final game, an 18-7 win at Louisiana-Monroe on March 11.
“I was focused on us winning a national championship. Now that that’s gone I have to turn my focus to getting ready for the draft. Losing that edge of trying to win the national championship bothered me a little bit,” Keenan said.
Servideo was hitting .390 with five home runs, 17 RBIs and 24 walks to boost an on-base percentage of .575.
“At the beginning of this whole virus thing all scouting activity got shut down so scouts can’t call you on the phone, they can’t come and meet with you in person, and they can’t watch you hit or work out or anything like that,” Servideo said.
Those restrictions have begun to loosen if only slightly. Baseball America reported this week that MLB is now allowing scouts to contact prospects remotely.
Unlike football and baseball in which NCAA athletes lose their remaining eligibility once they are drafted, baseball players can return to school after being drafted. Under normal circumstances MLB clubs have a 30-day window to sign their selected players.
The virus changes everything, and guys like Servideo and Keenan face uncertain futures.
“If it’s meant to be then it is, I can’t really control any of it,” Servideo said. “I’m letting it do it’s thing, take its course. If my name gets called, good, we’ll see what happens.”
Servideo says the Rebels’ 16-1 start and high expectations for conference play will play a part in his decision-making process.
“Yeah, definitely, to get to have that team back … That team was one of the best teams I’d played on if not the best. The bond we had was unbreakable. That definitely has a huge role in the decision we have to make,” he said.
Keenan didn’t hit so well at the beginning of the season but turned a corner when the Rebels won all three games in a tournament at East Carolina. He was on an incredible tear that was halted by the virus.
“Honestly I didn’t take it selfishly. I genuinely felt like we had a chance to win the national championship. I played on two really great teams at Ole Miss before this season, and this team definitely had a different feel to it. I felt like we were going to Omaha.”