For the past several years, professional scouts have been turning up at Free State High in greater numbers and with more regularity, all with the goal of getting an up-close look at Free State standout Cody Kukuk.
Sometime today, when Major League Baseball’s amateur draft continues and plows through more than 20 more rounds, Kukuk is expected to take a phone call that could drastically change his life.
Kukuk, a 6-foot-4, left-handed pitcher whose fastball has topped out at 95 mph, is expected to be selected somewhere between rounds 3 and 7. Although his pre-draft workouts continued until this past Sunday in Seattle, as of Monday night, Kukuk himself didn’t have any idea where he’d be picked.
“That’s what I’m hearing,” he said, referring to rounds 3 through 7. “But you never know how it’s gonna go when they’re actually drafting.”
Kukuk’s situation sets up like so many across the country. Already signed to Kansas University, Kukuk can elect to join the hometown Jayhawks, where he’d likely pitch and hit. Choosing to go to college would delay the start of Kukuk’s pro career for three seasons, as collegiate baseball players are not eligible for the draft until after their junior season. His other option is to choose to head directly to the minors, where he’d likely start out in rookie ball but with a heavily padded bank account. The signing bonus for a high school prospect picked in Kukuk’s projected range typically is in the neighborhood of $500,000.
Asked how he’s approached such a heavy decision, Kukuk’s answer revealed a lot about his character.
“I’ve just tried not to think about it too much,” he said. “I’ll worry about it after we know what’s happening. Until then, I’m just trying to enjoy everything, stay humble and not take myself too seriously.”
Kukuk, an only child, said he would lean heavily on his parents, Rod and Lori, for help with this potentially life-changing choice.
“It’s going to be a big decision,” he said. “And I’m going to need their help. I just hope I make a good decision.”
The odds of that happening increased with Kukuk’s next statement.
“But I’m excited,” he continued. “It’s not really a bad decision to have to make.”