Three weeks ago, highly rated left-handed hitting catching prospect Kyle Teel figured he was in a good spot no matter what came his way despite the likelihood of no high school games being played this season because of COVID-19.
The heavily scouted 18-year-old senior from Mahwah High School in New Jersey had a strong chance of being selected during MLB’s reconfigured draft, which has no set date after being pushed back from mid-June. The draft, which has to be held before July 21, could be reduced from its normal 40 rounds to five. And Teel had a verbal commitment to the University of Virginia which he made before he played a varsity game for Mahwah.
After discussing the pros and cons of each situation, Teel contacted big league clubs Wednesday evening and informed them he was going to attend Virginia.
“I have been thinking about this for a long time. Me and my family have talked about this. We really think it is important for me to get an education at the University of Virginia,’’ Teel said via phone Thursday. “That’s a big part why I chose to forgo the draft.’’
Teel’s decision is a big one for an 18-year-old, but he has a mature view of the landscape, which dictates that he won’t be eligible for the draft again until 2023.
“This process will be resumed in three years. It’s been a dream of mine to play in Omaha, too,’’ Teel said of the College World Series site in Nebraska.
Since pro scouts have seen him play for a long time, Teel was asked how difficult the choice was.
“It was definitely a tough decision. Being a professional baseball player is also a dream of mine,’’ said Teel, a Yankees fan. “It’s hard to not go into the draft, but Virginia is going to make me ready for not only baseball but for the real world. The decision made me a little more relaxed.’’
According to Teel’s dad, Garett, the uncertainty of the draft was a topic of discussion but not the major item that shaped the decision.
“We talked more of the education and coming away with something,’’ Garett Teel said. “You are a draft pick and you spend 10 years in the minor leagues after being in high school and in 10 years you still have nothing. You go to college first and you are going to get drafted again as a junior and real close to getting your degree if things don’t work out.’’
Yet, it didn’t erase the empty feeling of not playing a senior year of high school baseball.
“I am trying to stay strong right now and I am still talking to my teammates, making sure everyone is OK,’’ Kyle Teel said.
No games doesn’t mean no batting practice, throwing or catching for Teel. His dad owns Teels Baseball and Softball Training Center in Wyckoff. Garett, 52, played at Ridgefield Park High School and William Paterson University in Wayne before being selected by the Dodgers in the 12th round of the 1989 draft. A catcher and third baseman, he played five seasons in the Dodgers’ minor league organization and later coached in the system.
According to Garett Teel, Kyle’s decision was his to make.
“Me and his mom gave him the good and the bad and gave him all the information that he needed. He mulled it over and he decided on his own what he wanted to do,’’ Garett Teel said. “I am happy he made the decision. It’s a great place to get an education and a great place to play baseball. If you are a parent you got to be happy with it. You can play baseball anywhere, but you can’t always go to school like Virginia.’’
Without a senior season, the next opportunity to play for Teel is in the Midwest’s 21-team Northwoods League for college players. The start of that season has been pushed back because of the coronavirus.
Without high school games, Kyle Teel relies on a family member to work out with.
“I have been catching bullpens. I am grateful enough to have my brother be able to throw to me,’’ Kyle Teel said of Aidan, a freshman pitcher at Mahwah who has verbally committed to Virginia.
As for his talent, Kyle Teel’s numbers from his junior season certainly rank him among the elite high school players in the country. The 6-foot-1, 187-pounder batted .574 (35-for-161) with eight homers, 31 RBIs, posted an on-base percentage of .678 and a slugging percentage of 1.164. He struck out twice and drew 21 walks. On the mound he went 3-0 with three saves and fanned 16 in 11 ²/₃ innings.