By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Buddy Sosnoskie was nearly asleep, his head tilted back as he dozed on his parents' deck near Charlotte, N.C.
Sosnoskie's mother and brother were the first to give him the news: "You just got drafted, you just got drafted!" they erupted.
Indeed, in the 25th round of the 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, the Kansas City Royals drafted Sosnoskie, a red-shirt sophomore from Virginia Tech, a former resident of Clarke County and a graduate of Notre Dame Academy in Middleburg, with the 749th pick.
Sosnoskie was prepared for the news, having heard rumors at Virginia Tech that he'd be drafted. The Royals even told him they planned on taking him. But even as he took the first step into the early stages of his dream of playing professional baseball, Sosnoskie couldn't help but shrug the tidings off his shoulders.
It's not that Sosnoskie isn't grateful for the opportunity, it's that he doesn't think he's done anything out of the ordinary -- at least not yet.
"I'm excited about it," said Sosnoskie, now playing for the Woodstock River Bandits, "but it can happen to anyone if you have a good year."
"Good" is perhaps the wrong qualifier to describe Sosnoskie's spring, especially considering the way he spent his first two seasons at Virginia Tech.
Sosnoskie red-shirted the 2008 season, spending it recovering from shoulder surgery. He gained weight, ballooned to 200 pounds after his surgery, and played in 32 games in 2009.
He had 22 hits, batted .234 and hit only one home run. He subsequently caught mononucleosis, lost 25 pounds, yet came into the 2010 season as fit as he's ever been.
Then came that "good" season.
Sosnoskie's batting average exploded to .347. He played in 53 games, starting 48 of them. He more than doubled his at-bats (from 94 in 2009 to 202 in 2010), more than tripled his hits, nearly doubled his slugging percentage, and even lowered his strikeouts (from 26 to 25).
Sosnoskie's average was fourth-best among his Hokie teammates, and his 13 homers were tied for most on the team.
Sosnoskie's coaches at Virginia Tech joked that his mononucleosis made him more athletic. His coaches also trashed Sosnoskie's approach at the plate, and gave him a new one.
"The coaches down there [helped] me get back to a nice little line drive approach," Sosnoskie said. "Red-shirt freshman year, I went in with these high expectations of hitting a lot of homers, hitting for a high average, so my approach at the plate was bad -- I was striking out a lot and just had no success.
"This year I went back to singles, doubles in the gap -- if I hit a ball real well it went over the fence for me."
His plate appearances became more about developing a proper strategy, rather than fashioning a perfect at-bat. Sosnoskie made sure he saw more pitches, and he fought off bad pitches until he saw something hittable.
Virginia Tech finished its 2010 season with a 40-22 record -- the Hokies' first 40-win season since 1999 -- and an appearance in the Columbia Regional tournament final. Sosnoskie, after batting .353 with three home runs in the regional tournament, was named to the All-Regional team.
Sosnoskie was one of seven Hokies taken on the second day of the MLB draft. He has until Aug. 15 to sign with the Royals. If he doesn't sign, Sosnoskie will return to Blacksburg for a third season.
But for now, Sosnoskie is a River Bandit. This summer is Sosnoskie's second in the Valley Baseball League -- last season he played for the Front Royal Cardinals.
"It feels like home," said Sosnoskie, who lived in Bealeton and went to Liberty before moving to Clarke County and winning three state championships playing baseball at Notre Dame Academy. "I'm just kinda back seeing some people I know ... and it's kind of relaxing -- this area, I know pretty well."
And that's all Sosnoskie wants to do this summer -- relax. At least until he has to decide whether to head to the Royals' minor league system, or return to Virginia Tech. Should he choose the latter option, Sosnoskie might improve upon his already bloated batting average, and maybe his draft position.
If Sosnoskie doesn't sign with the Royals by the deadline, any major league team will be able to draft him in next year's draft, the Royals included.
But Sosnoskie still shrugs the decision off his shoulders. There's no sense in fretting over tomorrow as long as there's baseball to be played today.
"I'm just trying to concentrate and win ballgames here, and when you play to win, then success comes your way," Sosnoskie said. "Right now I just want to win."
Then he smiled a trademark kind of smile, somehow making the decision between living out a dream or remaining in the college ranks seem a paltry one: "And then by Aug. 15th, I'll have to make a decision, I guess."