President Donald Trump wanted to get his hands on Air Force slugger Nic Ready last week.
“I want to feel this guy’s muscles,” Trump joked as he invited Ready on stage during his graduation speech at Falcon Stadium. Ready was alerted to expect a shoutout as Trump referenced his record-breaking performance last summer at the college baseball home run derby.
He didn’t expect that.
“I was told to just real quickly stand up, give a simple wave and then sit down and shut up for the rest of the ceremony,” Ready said. “Obviously the way it unfolded went a little different and he went a little freestyle off the script and decided to pull me up on the stage. Took me completely by surprise when he did that.”
It was a pleasant surprise, to be sure. His mom cried. He received stunned reactions from friends and he’ll have a story to share for the rest of his life.
With the Major League Baseball Draft beginning Monday, Ready is hoping to be pleasantly surprised again if a team similarly decides it wants to get its hands on the Falcons’ all-time home run leader.
Ready is not alone in that that hope among players in the Pikes Peak region as this could turn into the most prolific baseball draft the area has ever seen.
Pine Creek pitching phenom Riley Cornelio is rated as the No. 20 high school prospect in the nation by Baseball Factory and No. 86 overall according to MLB.com.
The area has seen players taken early in the draft in recent years – Air Force pitcher Griffin Jax went in the third round in 2016 and Pike Creek’s Ryan Warner went to the Rockies in the third round in 2012. But never have potential picks like Cornelio and Ready been eligible in the same year for this area often stigmatized because of the cold weather that restricts the baseball calendar.
Cornelio said that stigma works to his advantage as a pitcher, as his arm doesn’t carry the wear and tear of some from areas that play year-round. Four or five scouts attended nearly all of his games this year and many more had the chance to see him play last year for Team USA’s under-18 squad.
He faced some of the top projected picks in this year’s draft, including Bobby Witt, Jr., Riley Greene and CJ Abrams, and he felt he fared well.
The No. 86 pick has a budgeted slot bonus of $699,700, a potential figure Cornelio might have to weigh against a scholarship to play at TCU.
“I think we have talked it over and that when that day comes, hopefully we’re going to make the best decision,” said Cornelio, whose advising team largely consists of his parents, John and Stephanie Cornelio, and Blake Hawksworth, who works with famed agent Scott Boras. “I don’t want to say anything too much right now with it only a day away, but we feel like we’ve put ourselves in a good position over these next few days.”
Ready, whose father, Randy, played 13 years in the major leagues, is projected to go anywhere from the sixth to 22nd round and has already submitted paperwork to serve under the World Class Athlete Program. That program allows qualified athletes to serve on active duty with the assignment of training for a possible spot on an Olympic team. Ready could serve in that capacity through June 2020, when the team is selected for that summer’s games in Tokyo.
He didn’t use his chance meeting with Trump as an opportunity to prod the president further on his suggestion a month ago to Army football coach Jeff Monken that he might alter the policy and allow service academy athletes to defer active-duty service to pursue professional sports.
Ready, who will go to South Carolina as a logistics officer if his baseball plan hits a snag, joked that his brief handshakes with Trump didn’t allow time for policy discussion.
“I didn’t want to make any quick movements,” the third baseman who owns Air Force's records in home runs and RBIs said. “You might get shot up there.
“If Trump wants to reverse that decision it would only help me out down the road.”
Air Force could potentially have two players drafted, as 6-foot-8 pitcher Jake Gilbert and his 96-mph fastball could draw enough interest to cause him to delay his pilot training slot to pursue the World Class Athlete Program.