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Jeff Kolpack, Published June 08 2013

Bison pitcher Straka drafted by Texas Rangers

FARGO – North Dakota State pitcher John Straka got a Facebook private message that perhaps had a little foreshadowing to it. Former Bison pitcher Neil Wagner, now with the Toronto Blue Jays, wished Straka good luck on the upcoming Major League Baseball draft.

It was the first time Straka got any type of message from Wagner.

“It was cool to hear he was still checking in on Bison baseball,” Straka said.

On Saturday, Straka got the coolest news any college player would want to hear. He was drafted in the 32nd round by the Texas Rangers and will wait to hear from the club in the coming days on what minor league level he’ll start his professional career.

“Pretty pumped up. Right now I’m just trying to hold it together,” Straka said. “It’s been a blast.”

It was generally considered that Straka was a pro prospect at some level, either in one of the major league farm systems or an independent organization like the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. Straka said he had no idea where, or if, he fit into anybody’s draft plans.

The Rangers were in contact at times over the last two years, probably more than any other club, he figured. Straka estimated around 15 teams contacted him during his Bison career.

“I hadn’t gotten a round range from anybody I talked to this year,” he said. “That was a little bit different, not having any idea. If I got the opportunity, I was going to be ecstatic.”

Straka said one Rangers scout was at Newman Outdoor Field to watch him pitch against Oakland University (Mich.). That was a 4-1 NDSU victory in which Straka went eight innings, struck out four and didn’t walk a batter. For the season, he was 8-2 with a 1.67 earned run average and a sparkling 90-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Straka was asked to submit medical information and also talked to the Ranger’s scout before the draft.

“I would say they were the most interested,” he said. “I was going to be happy with any opportunity I got or whatever round. I was happy the Rangers took me because I had good contact with that organization.”

Straka, from Chaska, Minn., was at home when he got the news.

The last NDSU pitcher drafted was sophomore David Ernst, who was taken in the 47th round out of Fargo South High School by the Chicago Cubs in 2011, but chose to honor his Bison commitment instead.

Straka, who just finished his senior year and overcame Tommy John surgery to his throwing elbow, is in a different stage of his career than Ernst. It was this year or nothing for him.

“It’s been a goal of mine from the time I was a little kid to pitch in the big leagues,” he said.

NDSU had one early signee from last November drafted. Left-handed pitcher Jared Dettmann from Century College, who has signed a letter of intent to play for the Bison, was picked by the Atlanta Braves in the 17th round.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia