ST. GEORGE — It was just another routine trip to the grocery store for Eric Carter and his wife Jessica. And then his phone went crazy.
“I started getting all these texts saying ‘Congratulations,’ and ‘You deserve it, man,’ and stuff like that,” Eric said. “I was like, ‘What the heck is going on?'”
Carter, the former Snow Canyon Warrior pitcher who just graduated from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, had just been drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in Major League Baseball’s 26th round.
“There was never any real indication that they were going to draft me,” Carter said. “I filled out some forms and stuff, but I never felt like at any moment while I was pitching that I was pitching to make professional baseball. I was just going out there and trying to help my team.”
The Carters pulled over to the side of the road and Eric tried to find some more information on his smartphone.
“I went to the website, but couldn’t see anything,” he said. “Then I got a call from Clint Brown, the (Cardinals) scout that I had talked to a little during the conference tournament. He asked me what I thought, if I was interested in giving professional baseball a try. We knew then we had some big decisions to make.”
Because Carter is a “senior sign,” there was no big signing bonus to entice him into going pro. Basically, the Cardinals were asking Carter to go play in their short-season single-A affiliate without any guarantees. Carter, who was already taking summer semester classes and had enrolled in a master’s program in the fall at ULL, was at a crossroads.
“You know, it’s been a lifelong dream to play professional baseball,” said Carter, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in general studies. “But I also didn’t want to try baseball and have nothing to fall back on.”
Ultimately, Eric and Jessica decided the opportunity was too great to pass up.
Thursday, they fly out of Las Vegas to State College, Penn., where Eric will be pitching for the State College Spikes.
Carter played for the Warriors in 2010, helping Snow Canyon to the Region 9 title that spring. Though he wasn’t very big at the time (5-foot-10, 195 pounds), he was an all-stater for SC and was signed by Salt Lake Community College.
“He was definitely a star for us, but he was kind of overshadowed a little bit because that’s the season Riley Gates broke through as a freshman,” Snow Canyon coach Reed Secrist said. “Marcus Littlewood was at Pine View and there were a lot of great players in the region.”
Secrist said Carter’s top speed on his fastball was in the mid-80s, but soon thereafter he began to pick it up.
“You know, he just kept working on his mechanics and now his fastball touches 95,” Secrist said.
Carter played two years at SLCC, with an LDS mission to Louisiana squeezed in between. After his sophomore year as a Bruin, the Ragin’ Cajuns came calling and Carter was more than happy to sign, given his familiarity with the area.
But in the 2015 season, ULL used him very sparingly. He made just six appearances and had a record of 1-1. Not wanting to complain, Carter told his coaches he just wanted to help the team win, no matter what that meant.
As it turns out, it meant a lot for him. He pitched in 26 games this spring, accruing a record of 6-2 with four saves and an earned run average of 2.08. The coup de grace was a dominant five-inning performance in the College World Series against the University of Arizona. Carter went five innings, allowing just three hits and no runs. And even though the Ragin’ Cajuns lost, Carter got noticed.
“I never thought that if I pitched well it would get me drafted,” said Carter, who is now 23-years-old and over 200 pounds. “My teammates had my back so many times this season and I wanted to pitch well for them.”
It’s been six years since he climbed the mounds in Region 9, but Carter said he knows that’s where he got the tools necessary to take this next step.
“I loved my time at Snow Canyon and playing under Coach Secrist,” he said. “That’s where I learned that I could compete at a high level. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but I guess it was.”
Carter is the second player in Snow Canyon history, and the first under Coach Secrist, to be drafted by Major League Baseball. Brock Jacobsen was drafted back in the late 1990s.
Carter was featured in a story on MLB.com and will get plenty of opportunities to hone his craft for the Spikes, who begin their season Friday night. The team plays in the New-York-Penn League and was the 2014 league champ. Teams in the NYPL play a 76-game schedule, with two rounds of playoffs.
“It’s a quick turnaround,” Carter said. “But I’m excited for this opportunity. It’s the chance of a lifetime.”
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