On June 9, the Major League Baseball draft released the names of the lucky college and high school baseball players that were chosen in the 50 rounds of the draft. USF’s senior shortstop Derek Poppert was one of the chosen names on that coveted list in the 28th round. The Cincinnati Reds offered Poppert a spot for their 2010 farm system, but for Poppert, this decision on whether or not to accept was not all that easy to come to.
Poppert ended his season with a .352 batting average and a .483 slugging percentage. He also had a .919 fielding percentage at shortstop in 148 chances. Since his freshman year, Poppert has stood out as one of the better players on the diamond for the Dons. His freshman year, Poppert had to step up and start at third base after an injury put his teammate out for the season. Poppert excelled at the position and proved to his team and USF fans that he could hold his own on a Division 1 baseball team. Poppert has definitely improved his game since his freshman year after only having a .297 average at the end of the 2007 season, and that did not go unnoticed. In the summer of 2008 Poppert was invited to the Cape Cod Baseball League to play for the Brewster Whitecaps. This league only takes the best of the best college students from across the nation to play on 10 teams. After being noticed at the Cape and Poppert’s impressive 2009 season with the Dons, the Cincinnati Reds saw what everyone at USF already did: this kid can play baseball. This summer was different for Poppert, as it was the first summer that he did not play summer baseball. It gave him a chance to spend time with his family and friends and work out from home. Being relaxed while making the decision that would affect the rest of his life seemed imperative for this incoming senior. For most college athletes, going to the pros is their dream since they first put a ball in their hand, but Poppert decided to turn down his offer by the Reds and return for one more year at USF.
Unlike other sports, baseball is the hardest sport to make it to “the show” as the insiders like to say. With basketball or football, once you are drafted, there is a spot for you on the team. In baseball, a player could be in the minor leagues for years before he ever gets to put on the uniform for the team he was set to play for. Sometimes choosing to leave college can be a gamble for students and the decision process can be mind-racking, as it was for Poppert.
In Poppert’s online summer blog he describes this decision the hardest one of his life. “It was a pretty exciting time,” said Poppert. “It is something you work for your entire baseball career but it is also a very stressful decision to make.” He was looking out for his best interest, and for this senior, going to the Reds was not the route for him to take. “It was the best decision for me personally and for my baseball career. It took a lot of soul searching, I talked to my parents about it a lot, and my present and past coaches,” said Poppert. “I even made a pros and cons list and finally came to the decision that it was the best decision for me to make.”
From past interviews with Poppert, his definite goal was to be a professional baseball player. Having this opportunity and letting it go was definitely the most difficult thing for him to do. “I realized the dream for me wasn’t to play in the minor leagues,” said Poppert. “My dream is to play in the major leagues. If that is really what I want to do, coming back to school and getting drafted again next year would be my best path.”
Poppert says that if he is drafted again in 2010 then he will sign and play. “If it doesn’t work out I still have my degree to fall back on,” said Poppert. “It definitely leaves me with a lot of options.”
Poppert’s fellow teammate senior catcher Ryan Lipkin was also drafted in the 2009 draft in the 43rd round by the Oakland Athletics. Lipkin has also decided to come back to USF. He was unavailable for comment.