DeMatha alum Jack Bulger will be living his dream next season whether he plays professionally or not.
Bulger, the 2019 Gatorade Maryland Baseball Player of the Year, is a verbal commit to collegiate powerhouse Vanderbilt. Although he was not selected this week in the 2020 MLB Draft, the catcher should attract offers to sign with a club as an undrafted free agent, but it’s far more likely he decides to continue his career with the Commodores before re-entering the draft in years to come.
“Vandy’s my dream school. They develop players better than any program in the country,” Bulger said. “I’ve wanted to go there since I was 12 years old. Around 2014, I started reading more about the program and realizing how good of a coach Tim Corbin is. Their commitment to their players and culture of winning is second to none.
“They have a top five pick every year of the draft; it’s just insane. They care about their players so much. It’s just a family environment. When I got there the first time, I kind of knew this was where I wanted to be. There was no doubt in my mind this was the right spot for me.”
According to scouts, in a typical year Bulger would have been drafted. Last season, the Stags catcher batted .545 with six doubles, three triples, five home runs and 32 RBI in just 77 at-bats. In addition, he dazzled on-lookers last summer with his performance at national showcase games. But 2020 has been anything but typical. The coronavirus pandemic canceled the baseball season completely for many in the northeast, and thus prevented the highly touted prospect from putting his development on full display.
“I really improved this offseason, especially defensively. I’ve always hit wherever I’ve gone. My bat has always been there, but I was looking forward to showing off the improvement in my whole game during the high school season,” Bulger said. “They [MLB scouts] did see me quite a bit over the summer, but at the same time, they’ve seen the college guys a lot more, so that’s why this draft was more college heavy than previous years. I don’t believe they had an opportunity to see all of what I have to offer.”
The pandemic also caused Major League Baseball to adjust its draft process in order to save revenue. Amongst the changes, MLB shortened the draft from 40 rounds to just five, put a cap on undrafted free agent pay and put a deferral on bonuses. The alterations undoubtedly will place some undrafted players in less than ideal situations, but for Bulger, the changes help simplify his decision.
“A team is really going to have to invest in me for me to even imagine foregoing college. I’m not going to go into pro ball as an undrafted free agent and sign for 20 [thousand dollars],” Bulger said. “I’d rather bet on myself, go to Vandy, and come back [to the draft] three years later. Hopefully be a first rounde, and have more options for myself than I would now — which would honestly be the ideal situation.”
Beyond the financial implications, Bulger also sees benefits in suiting up for Vandy and playing in a major college atmosphere.
“Playing under Tim Corbin, playing for a national championship, there’s nothing like it,” Bulger said. “In the grand scheme of things, if I was drafted, I would’ve probably been sent out to rookie ball, then maybe get up to A-ball and play in front of 50 fans — if it’s a small town, and there’s nothing else to do. That’s versus Omaha [College World Series] which was the second most watched baseball game all last year, except for I think game seven of the [MLB] World Series. There’s like 40,000 people in the stands and there’s nothing like that until you get to the major leagues.”
Bulger describes himself as a “baseball rat” who is prepared to work his tail off in order to help his team win. Although no final decision has been made, at this point, all signs point to the DeMatha man taking his talents to Nashville, Tenn.
“There’s just nothing like playing for a team, playing to compete and playing to win,” Bulger said. “So, If Vandy happens, I couldn’t be more excited.”
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