The mood tensed inside a cramped living room three miles from Alex Box Stadium.
The LSU baseball team’s most veteran player fidgeted on a couch.
Jake Fraley’s eyes darted toward Danny Lenoir.
Lenoir, his brother Tommy and friend Brandon Dooley drove 19 hours to see their best friend, the one the trio says is too serious.
“But,” Dooley says of Fraley, “very funny. He’s a real funny dude once you get to know him.”
Flanked to his left by his girlfriend, Fraley sat patiently for most of the three-hour first round of the Major League Baseball draft.
The Tampa Bay Rays took Fraley with the No. 77 pick Thursday, the last selection of the supplemental second round. The pick’s slot value is $826,200 and Fraley confirmed he will sign with the club, forgoing his senior season at LSU.
“I’ve had that moment played out in my head 100 million times, hugging my dad as soon as my name was called,” Fraley said shortly after being selected. “It was perfect in my mind. Everything went exactly how it was supposed to.”
Fraley was not selected in the first round, but more than 25 teammates cycled in and out of a plush Riverbend home to keep their veteran center fielder company while his mood noticeably soured.
He received phone calls infrequently. Once, he summoned hitting coach Andy Cannizaro, his father, Marvin and Charlie Clary — the baseball team’s chaplain, who hosted the party — into a narrow doorway. The Rays were slated to pick at No. 53 a short time later.
No pick came. They couldn’t agree on money and terms. Fraley endured another hour, often pacing in and around the home before the long wait ended with the final pick of the evening.
“I’m healthy, and I’m in the place that I’m at because of the Lord,” Fraley said. “It obviously didn’t go exactly how I wanted it to or the way I was told it was going to go for the last two years, or especially the last two weeks. But the Lord has the plan. It’s the next step. It’s the next door that opens for you once my college career’s over, whenever that may be.”
Fraley, ranked No. 66 in Baseball America’s Top 500 draft prospects, sat stoically throughout the first round, often getting support from Tigers ace Alex Lange and former outfielder Chris Sciambra.
“God always has a plan for it,” Danny told him before the trio started their drive to Baton Rouge. “It’s out of his control.”
Fraley has kept a similar demeanor throughout this draft process. He deadpans that, yes, the draft was still on June 9 four months ago. He’s known the circumstances and the pressure all season, shrugging them off to hit .324 while stealing a team-leading 28 bases.
“Was it straight-up dirtbag?” Fraley’s father, Marvin, asked. “Hell yeah. But that’s my son.”
Marvin was the first to embrace his son as tears began to flow. The father joked his son’s long evening erased “at least 10 years” from his life. Lange nearly tackled Fraley outside, jumping into his center fielder’s arms. Cannizaro and director of baseball operations Micah Gibbs gave big hugs.
“It’s another door that opens for you, and I’m just another guy that’s working his way to big leagues,” Fraley said. “And it starts with the Tampa Bay Rays.”
As the team gathered and sprawled on the living room floor below its center fielder, a potential future teammate was called away.
LSU signee Riley Pint, a power right-hander with effortless arm action who has touched 102 mph, was drafted No. 4 overall by the Colorado Rockies — with an assigned slot value of $5,258,700.
Neither LSU coach Paul Mainieri nor Cannizaro expect Pint to attend school as part of the Tigers’ 16-man signing class.
“If it works out for him the way that he wants it to, I wish him nothing but the best,” Mainieri said. “He’s a great kid, would have loved to have had him.”