Ethel heads into pro ball after getting drafted by Dodgers - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Ethel heads into pro ball after getting drafted by Dodgers

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Posted: Saturday, June 18, 2011 8:00 am | Updated: 1:26 pm, Wed Oct 10, 2012.

J.J. Ethel had removed himself from the process so much that he wasn't even around when it ended.

The Major League Baseball first-year player draft was conducted for three days and consisted of 50 rounds with 1,530 prospects selected.

The Mountain Pointe graduate was all set to finish school at Louisville and help out as a graduate assistant.

One text message changed it all.

"I wasn't even watching the draft anymore," Ethel said. "I had some things to do and was out when my buddy texted me to say congratulations. I had to ask him what he was talking about."

Turns out the Los Angeles Dodgers selected Ethel in the 49th round as a 1,484th overall pick to basically catch Ethel off guard, even though someone in the organization told him they'd probably take him.

"I look at it as a second chance," he said. "I really thought my playing days were over and that I would finish getting my degree, be a grad assistant and enter the real world.

"Now I get the chance to keep playing for however long that might be. I am not worried about that right now. I am just going to try and take advantage of the opportunity."

Ethel, a catcher, returns to Arizona next week to take a physical, sign a contract and end up in rookie ball in either Arizona or Utah.

The 6-foot-1, 173-pounder isn't even sure of the details other than he receives a couple thousand-dollar signing bonus and the organization will pay for the rest of his schooling.

"I don't know how long the contract is or anything, but I am ready to go," he said. "I just want to get started. At that point it doesn't matter where you were drafted. You just have to show them you can play the game."

Ethel, 22, has a reputation as good defensive catcher, who can call a good game with a good arm who threw out 16 of 37 (43 percent) potential stolen base attempts.

Mountain Pointe coach Brandon Buck said the Dodgers got a player, like most catchers, who takes a cerebral approach to the game.

"He is such a smart baseball player and hard-working kid," Buck said. "He understood what he was good at and played to those strengths."

Offensively, Ethel had some struggles against some of the nation's top pitching staffs in the Big East as he hit .251 with 12 doubles, 16 RBIs and 15 runs scored in 53 games as a senior.

Ethel, who played two years at Scottsdale Community College before signing with Louisville, hit .303 with two home runs and 16 RBIs as a junior.

"The thing I will remember most is hitting a three-run home run at Notre Dame (his junior year) to help us get close to clinching the Big East title," he said. "Nothing is better than the relationships and friendships built here at a top 25 program, but that is one play on the field that will stick with me."

Ethel, who was an all-region pick his senior year at Mountain Pointe after hitting .415 with five home runs and 16 doubles, knows 49th-round picks don't have an easy road in an organization, but he is clearly ready to give it a shot.

"Mike Piazza was a late-round (62nd) pick as a catcher and he made it," Ethel said. "It serves as inspiration. It can be done. Right now, I am not thinking about the majors. I am changing directions in life. I never thought I'd get this chance so I will put everything on hold until they tell me to do something else."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com

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