Here's how 4 all-time Galesburg baseball stars handled their selection in the MLB Draft

Matthew Wheaton
Galesburg Register-Mail
Jim Sundberg (top, left), Chad Johnson, Jeremy Pickrel, Fred Mims and Kyle Hunter are among 17 Galesburg High School grads who have experienced Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft.

Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft has come a long way since it debuted in 1965. Just ask Jim Sundberg, Galesburg’s most successful professional ballplayer.

Sundberg was chosen by the Oakland Athletics in the sixth round in the 1969 June draft. However, he elected to not sign with the A's, as Sundberg was already committed to play collegiately for the University of Iowa. 

"Unlike today, the thing that is really weird is I found out two weeks after the draft that I was drafted, and I found out in The Sporting News," Sundberg said. "I found out from Oakland in August, and I was already committed to go to Iowa.

“I was excited about it but it was just was strange that I never heard from the club itself," added Sundberg. "I had to find out about it in the newspaper."

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Public use of the internet aka World Wide Web didn't happen until 1993, and fellow former Silver Streaks catcher Barry Cheesman had a similar draft experience as Sundberg.

“You didn’t know what was happening. It was more that they called you if something happened. You weren’t listening to it or watching it. There was no internet," said Cheesman, who was taken by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 25th round in June 1977. "I don’t even remember if I was called that day or if it was the next day. Once they called, they just set up a meeting to come to the house and go over stuff.

"Today’s world is a lot different," added Cheesman, a 1977 GHS grad, who played four years of minor league baseball and was a professional golfer for 20 years. "You can follow it online pick-by-pick and they know what’s happening every moment.”

This year's version of the draft concludes Tuesday, and no Galesburg High School graduate has been taken in it since 2018 when Cody Hawthorne was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 21st round from Parkland College.

Chad Johnson, a catcher, was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the fifth round and was the 163rd overall pick in 2012. He watched the draft online with members of his family and close friends, and Johnson talked salary before he was picked. 

“The second day, I knew my name was probably going to get called. The head scout for the Royals called, and you have to basically commit and say I’m going to sign," Johnson said. "We turned them down because we didn’t like the offer they gave us. We had a figure in mind that I was going to sign for because I knew minor leaguers don’t get paid that much. When we said no, I was kind of distraught.

"The year I was drafted, they said this is round five and here is the money take it or leave it," added the 2012 GHS grad, who played five seasons of minor league ball. "They called back a few minutes later and somehow they found the money for me. We watched it on the computer and they announced my name. The scout was at my house the next day and I was off to Arizona two days later."

Like Johnson, Jeremy Pickrel, an outfielder, was near a computer when he was selected by the Minnesota Twins in the 10th round of the 2004 draft as an Illinois State University junior. 

“Back then, it wasn't televised or anything like it is now. We pulled it up and just sat there and listened pick after pick. You’re just waiting and know it’s possibly going to happen but you just don't know when," said Pickrel, a 2001 GHS grad. "I was with my immediate family. We were all just sitting around and listening on the computer. I got the call around the beginning of the 10th round and they asked me if I was ready to go we’re going to take you so I was thinking it’s going to happen.

"They drafted me and right after my phone rang and it was them," added Pickrel, who was a member of the Twins organization for three seasons before he was released in the spring of 2007. Pickrel then played two seasons of indy ball before calling it a career. "Back then the draft was like 50 rounds, so it was kind of a long morning because I was just waiting and waiting. Now, they’ve shortened the draft quite a bit.”

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18 from Galesburg have been drafted

At least, 18 GHS grads and/or individuals that were born in Galesburg have been drafted, according to baseball-almanac.com and baseball-reference.com, and Kyle Hunter, Fred "Willie" Mims and Sundberg experienced the draft on three different occasions. 

Along with being selected by the A's, Sundberg was drafted in June 1972 by the Rangers in the eighth round, pick No. 172. In the 1973 January "winter" draft, the Hawkeyes' catcher was taken by the Rangers again. Sundberg was the No. 2 pick in the first round. 

"When I was drafted the second time, I heard from a number a teams but I hadn’t heard from the Rangers so I was surprised they drafted me again but it turned out being the best thing for me," said Sundberg, who retired as a player at the end of the 1989 season after a 16-year MLB career with the Royals, Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, and Chicago Cubs. The former backstop is a member of the Rangers' Hall of Fame, has a World Series ring with the 1985 Royals and won six Gold Glove awards in his playing career. 

Mims, an outfielder, was drafted by the Cubs out of Spoon River College in the fifth round of the 1969 winter draft but didn't sign. Mims went on to play for the Hawkeyes, and he was drafted again in the 13th round of the June 1971 draft by the San Diego Padres. Mims stuck it out at Iowa, and he was selected by the Brewers in 1972 in the third round of the winter draft. After injuries ended his baseball career, Mims went on to serve as an athletics administrator for the Hawkeyes for 38 years, and he retired in 2015.

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Hunter was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2008 draft out of GHS in the 33rd round, and he elected to forgo signing to play collegiately for Kansas State University. The New York Yankees drafted Hunter in 2010 after his sophomore season with the Wildcats but he stuck at K-State. 

Tyler Farrell, a right-handed pitcher, and Hunter were both taken in the 2011 draft. Farrell was out of GHS by the Yankees, and he elected not to sign and went on to pitch for Western Illinois University. The Seattle Mariners used pick No. 933 and drafted Hunter in the 31st round. 

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In seven seasons in the Mariners’ organization, Hunter, a lefty, compiled a 27-17 record with a 3.11 earned run average and appeared in 232 games. Used as a starter, middle reliever and situational pitcher, he walked 131 batters in 484 innings while striking out 376. Hunter split time between Seattle's Triple A and Double AA squads in the 2017 season, and he retired in March 2018 at the age of 28, as a free agent. 

More on Hunter:Hunter chases the dream with LumberKings

In case you wondered, both Carl Sandburg College and Knox College have had a player drafted. The Chargers' Jason Hardebeck, a left-handed pitcher, was selected in the 16th round of the 1997 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Knox’s Robert Ryan, a right-handed pitcher, was drafted in the 24th round of the 1986 draft by the Yankees. 

MLB draftees from Galesburg, IL

1965: Michael Davis, SS: St. Louis Cardinals; Galesburg High School (June draft, 13th round pick No. 253)

1966: Robert Darrah, LHP: New York Yankees; Tulane University (June draft, 25th round, pick No. 490)

1969: Fred "Willie" Mims, OF: Chicago Cubs; Spoon River College (Jan. draft, 5th round, pick No. 103).

1969: Jim Sundberg, C: Oakland Athletics; GHS (June draft, sixth round pick No. 127)

1971: Fred "Willie" Mims, OF: San Diego Padres; University of Iowa (June draft, 13th round, pick No. 288)

1972: Jim Sundberg, C: Texas Rangers; University of Iowa (June draft, 8th round pick No. 172)

1972: Fred "Willie" Mims, OF: Milwaukee Brewers; University of Iowa (Jan. secondary draft, third round pick No. 62)

1973: Jim Sundberg, C: Texas Rangers; University of Iowa (Jan. secondary draft, first round pick No. 2)

1973: Stephen Ballard, 1B: St. Louis Cardinals; University of Arizona (June draft, 48th round pick No. 739)

1975: Gary Purcell, OF: Boston Red Sox; University of New Orleans (June draft, 11th round pick No. 255) 

1975: Richard McCarthy, SS: Baltimore Orioles; University of New Orleans (June draft, 17th round pick No. 407)

1976: Mark Thiel, C: New York Yankees; University of Missouri (June draft, 10th round, pick No. 232)

1977: Barry Cheesman, C: St. Louis Cardinals; GHS (June draft, 25th round pick No. 613)

1983: Paul DeJaynes, P: New York Yankees; GHS (June draft, 11th round pick No. 275)

1985: Robert "Bobby" Jackson, 3B: San Francisco Giants; GHS (June draft, 4th round pick No. 82)

1986: Paul DeJaynes, P: Minnesota Twins; Bradley University (June draft, 12th round pick No. 299)

1993: Jeremy Lee, P: Toronto Blue Jays; GHS (June draft, first round pick No. 40).

2003: Andrew Swanson, P: Tampa Bay Rays; GHS (June draft, 28th round pick No. 818)

2004: Jeremy Pickrel, OF: Minnesota Twins; Illinois State University (June draft, 10th round, pick No. 301)

2008: Kyle Hunter, LHP: Tampa Bay Rays; GHS (June draft, 33rd round, pick No. 983)

2010: Kyle Hunter, LHP: New York Yankees; Kansas State University (June draft, 43 round, pick No. 1,315) 

2011: Kyle Hunter, LHP: Seattle Mariners; Kansas State (June draft, 31 round, pick No. 933)

2011: Tyler Farrell, RHP: New York Yankees; GHS (June draft, 43rd round, pick No. 1,319)

2012: Chad Johnson, C: Kansas City Royals; GHS (June draft, 5th round, pick No. 163)

2018: Cody Hawthorne, LHP: Texas Rangers; Parkland College (June draft, 21st round, pick No. 629)

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Others from Galesburg who played pro ball

Wendell Davis, 3B: Davis was signed by the Chicago Cubs in 1949 and played for the organization's Janesville team. He also was a member of the Boston Braves organization, as well as the Cardinals. Davis played five seasons of minor league ball.

Jean Davison, P: In 1946 and at the age of 23, Davison signed to become a member of the Cubs organization. He played in the minors for the Davenport Cubs, Des Moines Bruins, Nashville Volunteers and Macon Peaches in his four-year career. 

Bill Stevens, C: Stevens signed a contract with the Saint Joseph Saints, an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, in 1949 and played in the minors for five seasons.

Mike Owens, SS: Following a baseball and basketball career at Bradley University, Owens was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960 but a knee injury meant a brief minor league career.

Matthew Wheaton can be reached at (309) 315-6073 or at mwheaton@register-mail.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewlwheaton