(WJBF) – Three former USC Aiken players drafted into Major League Baseball.
Mitch Spence went in the tenth round to the New York Yankees.
Zach Rafuse drafted by the Oakland A’s.
Garvin Alston now playing in the White Sox organization.
This comes just a few months after the team’s bus burst into flames after a game.
This year’s USCA team made it all the way to their conference championship. Now three of their starting pitchers one step closer to the big leagues.
“Golly, March was tough, but how proud could you be of your team in April.
Kenny Thomas has coached baseball for 32 years.
“That was one of the toughest situations that I’ve ever experienced,” said Thomas.
In March, the team’s bus burst into flames.
“The day of the bus fire, we had won that day, a big game at North Georgia we were tied for first in the conference. We were tenth in the nation. We were rolling,” said Thomas.
That momentum came to a grinding halt when the fire ruined most of their gear.
“I didn’t realize that it had affected our guys as much as it did,” said Thomas.
“The bus fire was extremely traumatic and it kinda showed in March. In March we had probably one of the worst months I’ve ever seen since my time at USC Aiken.”
Yankees 10th round draft pick, Mitch Spence wore his burned hat the rest of the season.
“It’s something I’ll keep forever,” said Spence. “You know to remind me of how lucky we were to get out of that fire. Being able to overcome such a traumatic incident like that. It was huge and it brought us together as a team. We kinda rallied around it.”
And those relationships helped them through the draft process.
“The draft is crazy.”
Pitching coach Derek Beasley was drafted from USCA in 2014. White Sox draft pick Garvin Alston says Beasley’s advice helped he and his teammates become pros.
“Beasley helped tremendously. He kind of just kept me grounded more than anything making sure that I did the small things and was on me 24/7 making sure that I did what I needed to do to get drafted and be the best pitcher I could be.”
Even though they are no longer teammates… their bond continues.
“We realized that through all those times that we had through the year, we became brothers.”
“Oh yeah. We talk everyday,” said Beasley. “We’ve got a little snapchat group going. They send picture of the stuff they got. I mean it’s cool. It’s awesome to see.”
“I love this team as much as any I’ve ever had because what those guys went through this year. I don’t even think people realize. We will continue to be united as Pacers forever,” said Thomas.
So what about next year, now that 3 of their starters are gone? Coach Thomas says it’s business as usual since they are used to having guys drafted and he’s got lots of young players ready to fill their shoes.