From the first day Tanner Rainey arrived on campus, the West Alabama coaching staff knew they had somewhat of a dilemma.
His glove as a first baseman was too good to not have on the field.
He was too good with the bat in his hand.
And then they watched him pitch, and they were in awe of that as well.
We just looked at each other and started grinning,” West Alabama pitching coach Eric McCurdy said. “He had a power arm, and we saw it the first day he got here. You can just see the ball explode out of his hand.”
So Rainey, a 2011 St. Paul’s grad, did a little of everything at West Alabama.
But it’s on the mound where he is expected to make his mark as a professional after being drafted by the Cincinnati Reds on Monday.
Rainey was chosen with the 71st overall pick, the first pick in the Competitive Balance Round B after the conclusion of the second round.
The 71st choice has a slot value of $865,900 this year.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Rainey, who watched the draft from his home in Folsom with family and friends.
Rainey went undrafted as a junior last season but had a stellar senior season to help his stock skyrocket.
He batted a team-best .386 batting and set a school record with 19 home runs go with his 65 RBIs. He was also the closer, posting nine saves, a 4-1 record and a 1.59 ERA while striking out 50 batters in 28.1 innings.
And it’s on the mound where the Reds plan to use the 6-foot-3 right-hander who transferred to West Alabama after two seasons at Southeastern Louisiana.
“I just thought it was a better opportunity,” Rainey said about his decision to transfer.
West Alabama welcomed him with open arms.
“We contemplated converting him into a starting pitcher,” McCurdy said. “But he was so good defensively, probably the best first baseman in our league, and we needed his bat in the lineup. To see him do that and then come in and slam the door in the ninth for us, tells you how much he meant is us.”
Rainey’s best days on the mound should be ahead. His arm doesn’t have much wear and tear on it.
In addition to his relief duties in college, Rainey said he only pitched about 10 innings in high school at St. Paul’s, where he played mostly first base and third base.
“I think that’s smart,” said West Alabama head coach Gary Rundles. “He has a very fresh arm. When you add up all the innings, he is very raw. But not raw when it comes to ability. He has an electrifying arm that you can just tell because his arm just comes through completely different.”
Rainey flies to Arizona on Thursday to sign and take a physical and then will be headed to Billings, Montana, where he will be assigned to the Billings Mustangs, the Reds rookie affiliate.
The childhood dream will perhaps then start feeling like a reality.
“I always wanted to tell myself there was a chance (of getting drafted),” Rainey said. “Then after high school and a couple years in college I remember saying ‘Whoa, it really could happen.’ ”
His phone has constantly been going off as friends have called to congratulate the guy who also grew up playing everything from soccer to basketball to football before deciding to just stick with baseball by the time he was a freshman at St. Paul’s.
His best days though, could be ahead as he puts the first base mitt away and focuses on just being a pitcher.
“He’s a competitor,” McCurdy said. “He wanted the ball in his hands, and he wanted the bat in his hands. But he understands where his major league potential is, so he is Ok putting the bat down.”