CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Former Illini Michael Massey was only days away from playing his first spring training game in Royals camp when COVID-19 but a stop to it all. No one knows when they’ll return, but when they do Massey sees things being a lot different.
More Illini baseball players were drafted last decade than any other. The 30 Illinois draft picks from 2010 to 2019 are 11 more than the next closest. 13 of those coming in the last two seasons, to 11 different major league ball clubs. Meaning there are Illini spread all across the country and baseball players are no different than any other college student. Once they graduate, or in this case get drafted, they still keep in contact with their close friends.
“We have some group chats going. Actually when I was out in spring training, the Rockies are in Scottsdale so me and Yalo (Jack Yalowitz) would get together,” Michael Massey said. “We do a good job of staying in touch .”
Michael Massey was the highest picked player last season, going in the 4th round, #109 overall, to the Kansas City Royals. That’s the 10th highest picked player in program history. After his first year, he couldn’t dream of a better place to land.
“It reminds me a lot of the culture and the environment we had at Illinois. Just very family-oriented, all the players get along really well,” Massey said. “I think it’s rare these days when you find organizations that are less concerned with your statistics and your baseball development and they’re more concerned with how you develop as a man and as a father, husband, all those different things.”
But year two is put on hold due to COVID-19. While he’s waiting to go back to camp, Massey is still getting some swings in and working out in his home gym. He hit .272 with five home runs and 25 RBIs in 42 games with the Burlington Royals last summer. He was told to expect to be gone six to eight weeks, but there’s no definitive timetable. One thing he does know, when baseball does return, it will likely look and feel a lot different.
“I think they’re just going to try and get the games going and then maybe progressively add fans. I’m interested to see how the clubhouses are going to handle it,” Massey said. “You’ve got 30 guys in the clubhouse, if one guy gets it, does that team have to be quarantined, can go out and play?”
The Royals had not made their decision yet on what level Massey would start his 2020 season. He’s just itching to get back on the field as soon as possible.