The UNO baseball program sent two former Mavericks into in the 2016 MLB draft. Outfielder Cole Gruber and pitcher Robert Calvano were the first draft picks in UNO’s Division I era and the sixth and seventh drafted under previous head coach Bob Herold.
Gruber, a Papillion-La Vista native, was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 27th round.
“I was trying to keep my mind off of it (the draft),” Gruber said when asked what he was doing when his name was selected. “I was dozing off and then I got like eight texts in a row saying, ‘congrats man.’”
Gruber won the Summit League batting title (.374) twice and finished third in the nation with 43 stolen bases. During the 2016 season, Gruber hit .376 in 56 games played.
An accounting major, Gruber, earned Academic All-America honors in 2016, and plans to return to Omaha in August and finish up his 150 credits, shooting for a summer 2017 graduation date.
Before signing with Oakland, Gruber originally had plans to continue his internship with BKD, an accounting firm in Omaha.
With waking up early, heading to the field for lunch, followed by warmups, workouts, BP and practice, the outfielder says the biggest difference between college and professional baseball is the time.
“It’s baseball all day long now,” Gruber said. “But it’s my job and I really can’t complain about it.”
Gruber relates professionally to playing summer ball, saying the time frame is very similar with playing games almost every day, compared to just a few a week in college.
Eleven rounds later (38th round and 1,156th pick overall), right-handed pitcher Calvano was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals.
After transferring from Johnson County Community College, the Kansas City, Missouri native threw only 16 innings over three years for the Mavericks. Making 18 appearances on the mound after joining the UNO program in 2014, Calvano was a part of Omaha’s second Summit League championship team. Due to 21 earned runs, Calvano has an 11.81 ERA. In 2016, he struck out five and walked three in 6.2 innings while allowing five earned runs.
After transferring to UNO, Calvano said he learned a lot from the coaching staff.
“They just really taught me how important it is,” Calvano said. “They taught me to come into each outing like it was the most important outing of your life.”
Though his name wasn’t called during the draft, right-handed pitcher Tyler Fox signed a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Twins about a week later.
The two-time Summit League pitcher of the year was UNO’s No. 1 starter for four years, holding the school record with 30 career wins and went 10-2 in the 2016 season.
Fox, a Thornton, Colorado native, reported to the organization’s rookie-level affiliate in Fort Myers, Florida in June.
The people of Omaha and his teammates are something that Fox said he will miss the most.
All three former Mavericks describe signing their professional contracts as “a dream come true” and something they’ve worked hard for their entire lives.