Home Local Sports Baucom exercising extra year of eligibility to raise MLB draft stock

Baucom exercising extra year of eligibility to raise MLB draft stock

Rockingham native Ethan Baucom will return to UNCP next year in hopes of preparing for the MLB draft.
Contributed photo.

PEMBROKE — When his senior season as UNC-Pembroke’s returning home run hitter began in February, Ethan Baucom had his eyes set on testing the waters of the MLB draft.

But in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the Rockingham native’s season as a Brave was cut short and UNCP played its last game on March 10 before the rest of the year was canceled.

Luckily for Baucom, and all spring athletes across the nation, the NCAA is affording student-athletes an extra year of eligibility. That was a decision made by the governing body at the end of March. 

And that’s an opportunity Baucom expects to take full advantage of next spring.

“It was really terrible to hear the season had to stop, but it looks like I’ll be back at Pembroke for another senior season,” Baucom chuckled. “I’m looking forward to being back with the team and the coaches, and we won’t be losing many guys.

“I’m thankful the NCAA gave us another year of eligibility,” he added.

Pembroke entered the break on an 11-game winning streak and the Braves (18-5, 10-2 Peach Belt Conference) cracked into the Division II national rankings at the No. 28 spot. 

Baucom was also on a tear at the plate, batting a .307 clip with a club-leading nine home runs and a team-best 37 runs batted in.

His RBI and home run totals placed him second and third, respectively, in the nation amongst D-II players. Baucom trailed Kaimana Bartolome (Oklahoma Baptist) by one RBI and Josh Elvir (Angelo State) by two homers.

At home on March 4 against non-conference Barton College, Baucom hit his way into Pembroke’s record books by breaking the program’s all-time home run record. He sent career shot No. 47 over the fence in a 20-6 win, and extended his lead to 49 bombs by the end of the shortened season. 

“I was doing really well and I was picking up right from where I left off last year,” Baucom said alluding to his 20-homer junior season. “The team was playing really strong and we were clicking before the season ended.”

During the current break from sports, Baucom is continuing his training in Wilmington. He’s using a home gym to maintain his strength, running and playing basketball to keep up his cardio and “doing everything possible” to keep his arm and body in shape for when baseball returns.

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His decision to return to Pembroke next year and exercise his extra season of eligibility is a move Baucom hopes will raise his draft stock. Major League Baseball announced earlier this month that it would be shortening the 2020 amatuer draft to just five rounds compared to its normal 40 rounds.

An extra season with the Braves, Baucom said, will give him a chance to pad his resume as he eyes a career at the next level.

“I was eyeing the draft this year, but now that it’s cut short, I’m excited to be going back to Pembroke,” he said.

“I’ve had a few teams contact me and there have been scouts to come out and watch me and (teammate) River Ryan play,” he added. “It’s been a cool experience to have both of us looked at pretty highly.”

According to Baucom, scouts or representatives from the Atlanta Braves, Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins have shown interest in his abilities to play at the professional level.

But until baseball diamonds across the country are filled back up with players, coaches and fans, Baucom said he’s going to continue to train hard and be ready for when his number is called.

“I’m really excited for this to be over with, get back to normal and play baseball,” he closed.

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Kyle Pillar is a nine-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.