When a player is selected in Major League Baseball’s Amatuer Draft, it is a moment of jubilance for he and his family, a testament to the work and sacrifices they made over the first 18 to 22 years of the kid’s life.
What isn’t always talked about on that day is the long journey ahead: statistics will tell you that just 10 percent of drafted players will spend one inning in an MLB uniform. The other 90 percent toil away in obscurity in the minor leagues, until one day they call it quits.
When casual acquaintances hear of a player being drafted, they perhaps have visions of them flying on charter jets, enjoying fine foods, and playing in front of 50,000 fans at Yankee Stadium.
The reality is less peachy – several years of long, bumpy bus rides, stays at motels, and meager living wages (the average minor leaguer makes about $2,000 a month the first few years).
It’s fair to say that the odds are stacked against a player who is drafted ever making it to the calamari dinners and five-star hotels.
All that, in addition to the fact that it’s very unlikely a player gets drafted in the first place, makes it all the more exciting that Mebane and Hillsborough have a pair of native sons that are quickly ascending the minor league ranks in their respective systems.
Zack Littell, 22, is an Eastern Alamance graduate now in the Minnesota Twins’ organization, while Bryse Wilson, 20, is an Orange High graduate rapidly moving up the ranks of the Atlanta Braves farm system.
Both players were promoted last week: Littell to Triple-A Rochester, and Wilson to Double-A Mississippi. Both are right-handed pitchers who just became the youngest player on their respective roster.
That’s a remarkable feat for the two players, and for the towns in which they were raised. If you combined the populations of Mebane and Hillsborough, you’d have a small city of about 20,000 people. Most cities of that size don’t produce a Major League ballplayer, let alone two contemporaries.
And hey, anything can happen. God forbid, Wilson or Littell could suffer an injury. They could see their progress stunted while acclimating to the new level they now find themselves at. That is to say, it is not inevitable that they will reach the Major Leagues.
But the fact that they have gotten this far this fast speaks volumes about the way their respective organizations feel about them due to their performance thus far in the minor leagues. It is not crazy to think Littell might make his MLB debut by the end of this season, and Wilson by the end of the next (though official projections currently have him debuting in 2020).
All of the above shows two young men from this area that have a lot in common. They have one more thing in common, too. Whenever our publications post articles about their progress to social media channels, as we did this past weekend, an overwhelming amount of support from the community pours into the comments section. Unlike many of the stories we post that are inevitably turned into yet another thing to argue about, the collective reaction to the prospect of a hometown boy making it to the major leagues someday is something the Orange and Alamance communities can all get behind with unflinching positivity.
To take nothing away from Littell and Wilson’s natural ability, drive, and overwhelming familial support – all of which both athletes have in spades – the support from the community might be viewed as yet another reason they are both on the verge of something very unlikely.
Yes, someday soon, against all odds, every television in Mebane and in Hillsborough will be glued to an MLB broadcast it otherwise would not be, and that will be a very special day indeed.