Cameron Cannon was a standout shortstop on Glendale’s Mountain Ridge High School baseball team, good enough to get picked in this year’s Major League Baseball draft.
But, fortunately for the University of Arizona, he has decided to delay the start of his professional career and play college ball in-state. And that keeps him in the local pipeline since it was the Arizona Diamondbacks who drafted him in the 21st round.
Cannon finished his junior season with a .412 batting average and then rolled through a successful senior campaign in which he hit .353 and added six home runs and 21 RBIs.
But he’s just part of a bigger recruiting story for the UofA. Cannon is one of six MLB draft picks to elect to forego pro ball to play for the Wildcats next season.
Not bad, huh, for a coach who’s been on the job for just one season?
That’s what a run for the national title will do for a program. Everybody wants to jump on the bandwagon when it’s on a roll.
Jay Johnson, in his debut season as head coach, took the Wildcats to the championship game of the College World Series and came within one game of bringing back the school’s fifth national title.
And, with that success, came riches. Both monetarily and in talent.
An anonymous donor made a $1 million pledge following the CWS run, with the money earmarked for improvements to their home at Hi Corbett Field, fan amenities, and other improvements for the student-athletes.
Add to all that, the Arizona program offers potential recruits a showcase for their talents. The Wildcats have been one of the nation’s top draws, averaging 3,043 fans a game last season, which led the Pac-12 Conference.
So it’s little wonder that the program continues to attract top talent.
In addition to Cannon, the group of MLB draft picks coming on board for the 2017 season includes Nick Quintana from Las Vegas (11th round/ Red Sox/ shortstop), Cal Stephenson from California (36th round/ Dodgers/ outfield), Cory Voss from Texas (37th round/ Nationals/ catcher), Matthew Fraizer from California (38th round/ Athletics/ outfield), and Shane Martinez from California (39th round/ Athletics/ infield).
Stephenson and Voss are junior-college transfers who could see playing time right away. Stephenson played for Johnson at the University of Nevada before Johnson was hired as Arizona’s head coach last year and then spent last year at Chabot College in California, while Voss played his freshman season at New Mexico and last season at McLennan College in Texas.
All six are scheduled to be on campus this month as Johnson continues re-building a program that hadn’t been to the College World Series in three years, an annual expectation for a program with Arizona’s pedigree.
But he set the bar really high his first season in Tucson, taking a team that had been picked to finish ninth in the Pac-12 and taking it, not just back to Omaha, but all the way to the title game. The team’s 49 wins were the most in a season in 30 years and the 11-4 post-season record is the best in program history.
It’s going to be a tough act to follow. But adding a little Major League talent will certainly help.