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Outfielder Cermak to Join Rays System, Becomes Highest Drafted Redbird in Two Decades

Written by on July 19, 2022

Image courtesy of goredbirds.com

NORMAL Ill.- With the 71st pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, the Tampa Bay Rays select Ryan Cermak. 

Cermak has become the highest Major League Baseball Draft pick out of Illinois State University since Neal Cotts in 2001. The Redbird outfielder is coming off one of the best individual seasons in Illinois State baseball history.

Players that have gotten drafted into professional sports have unique stories of watching the draft. Cermak had his own personal viewpoint this year.

“Names were being called, I was just doing my own thing.” Cermak said, “it started to get to my general area on where I thought I was going to [be drafted] and seeing names being called and not seeing mine. I was staying positive but at the same time, it was a little nerve-racking. I kept my cool, and had faith that I’d get picked.”

Going into a draft, there are players that have a general idea of what teams are interested in drafting them. Some players get drafted by those who were interested in them, and some do not. Cermak talked about the idea of what teams were interested in him going into this year’s draft.

“[The Rays] were definitely a team that I knew had an interest in me, it wasn’t a surprise that I went with them.” Cermak said, “I also wouldn’t have been surprised if anyone else took me because I was talking to a few teams, but they were definitely on the radar.”

Each player is different when it comes to watching the draft. Some have entire block parties, and others have a very small group of people around them. Cermak discussed his own group that helped him celebrate getting drafted.

“It was amazing.” Cermak said, “they all had my back for the longest time…I didn’t want to have a big party with everybody I knew, didn’t want to invite the whole town, pretty much just a good group of guys that have always had my back and the same thing with my family. It was awesome sharing a moment like that with them.”

During his time at Illinois State, Cermak played different positions. Being a versatile player could help one’s team change strategy in many ways, but this transition can be hard on some players. 

“I think it was just my athleticism that really took over once I moved from the infield to the outfield.” Cermak said, “I could really show off my speed and range. Something that I think that I still need to work on is thorough reps. Just seeing balls being hit off the bat, making sure that I know where to track it- and sometimes I run into the wall a little too hard.”

Once drafted into the MLB, players have the chance to go through the Minor League Baseball system, and then hopefully make it to the big leagues. For Cermak, he talks about if he has any idea on what level of the MiLB system he is going to.

“They haven’t said much yet, [The Rays] are working on the information now.” Cermak said, “I assume that it would be within the next week or so, where I get shipped out and start practicing with the team down in Florida.”