Zach McCambley has been down this road before, enduring the agonizing wait to hear his name called in the MLB draft.
That was in 2017, shortly after graduating Pocono Mountain East High School. He did not hear his name called then and instead went to Coastal Carolina University, where he signed ahead of his junior year on a full scholarship.
Three years and many new experiences later, McCambley knows his chance is here – and he’s prepared to approach what could be the biggest moment of his life when the draft begins on Wednesday.
"Going to college, being about 11 hours from home and ... having to learn how to take care of myself really on my own and live on my own, I think it’s been huge," McCambley said in a June 4 phone interview. "I give the credit to my coaches because they really took me under their wing and taught me how to be a man.
"I think coming to Coastal, you’ve got to be a blue-collar type of guy. You’ve got to be a hard worker, and I think this was definitely the best decision for me. I think that I needed to come here to grow up a little bit and I think I’m more ready than ever now for sure."
In 2017, McCambley, then the Pocono Record Baseball Player of the Year, said he hadn’t spoken to anybody ahead of the draft. Those circumstances are much different in 2020.
As of Monday, MLB.com ranks McCambley No. 80 of all draft prospects entering Wednesday’s draft, with a curveball that has been described as one of the best available in the draft.
"I’ve pretty much been on the phone 24/7 the past two months," McCambley said, "and my agent told me that it’s probably going to start getting pretty hectic here after this weekend. It’s definitely a hectic process. I think of it as a blessing and I’m very grateful for it, but it’s definitely a lot having to have these Zoom meetings, especially with this whole (COVID-19) virus thing. It screwed a lot of things up."
Among the many things disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic was the college baseball season. McCambley made four starts for the Chanticleers this spring with impressive stats, going 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA through 25 innings pitched, striking out 32 batters and walking just seven. McCambley kept opponents’ batting average a mere .208.
"I was really trying to prove that my name still belonged in the draft," said McCambley, who rejuvenated himself in the Cape Cod League over the summer after a shakier 2019 regular season than he expected. "I knew that my first two years were a little up and down here at Coastal. I had some really good moments but I’ve also had some learning experiences. It just sucks that it had to come to an end."
Once the season was halted and subsequently canceled, McCambley came back to the Poconos for a month, where he practiced and lifted regularly with best friend and former Pocono East teammate CJ Peechatka, who spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons playing at Northampton Community College before transferring to Campbell University in North Carolina for the 2019-20 school year and season.
When McCambley got back to South Carolina, he was able to continue training with friends and said he has been able to stay in shape throughout the pandemic.
That has him prepared for Wednesday’s draft, which is expected to be a far different turn of events than what McCambley went through in 2017.
"Out of high school, I wasn’t really too highly scouted from the pro teams," he recalled. "I know I’d have a couple guys come to my games. That was good and everything, but I knew I wasn’t ready for anything like that and I knew I had to go to college to mature and everything like that to kind of develop mentally.
"I think that kind of humbled me, that experience. I’ve always felt like I’ve always been a little overlooked, more of an underdog type of player."
Now sitting as a top-100 draft prospect, perspective is starting to set in.
"Just to hear that, it’s cool," McCambley said. "A lot of hard work has gone into this. Not a lot of people get to really see that because obviously they’re not here with me, but a ton of hard work has gone into these past three years.
"Finally, hopefully it pays off here (Wednesday) but obviously I know this is just the next step in the process. I know it’s not the final step. I know I’ve still got some tough years ahead, but it’s just humbling."
If drafted, McCambley would be the first Monroe County player drafted since Mike Nikorak was selected in the first round of the 2015 draft when the Colorado Rockies selected the Stroudsburg High grad with the 27th overall pick. Other players drafted from the area include Stroudsburg’s Robert Bennie (Oakland Athletics), Joe Bennie (Oakland Athletics), Steve Nikorak (Chicago White Sox), and Pleasant Valley’s Aaron Furmann (Detroit Tigers) AND Jeremy Gigliotti (San Diego Padres).
The 2020 MLB draft begins Wednesday at 7 p.m. with live coverage on both MLB Network and ESPN.