Any gray area involving Jim Toman’s job description applies to his input regarding the annual MLB draft.
An assistant coach at perennial national baseball power South Carolina before taking over the Liberty University program in 2007, Toman only four years ago had seven of his players selected.
In June the number was four — infielder and 2014 Big South Conference Player of the Year Ryan Seiz, pitcher/outfielder Ashton Perritt, catcher/first baseman Alex Close and pitcher Adam Parks.
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Seiz and Perritt were taken in the 17th round by the Los Angeles Angels and Atlanta Braves, respectively. Kansas City called Close in Round 27, while Parks went in the 33rd round to the Texas Rangers.
Four young men with life-altering choices to make. Do they return to Liberty or immediately attempt to start the climb through professional baseball’s ranks?
Two remained, including Perritt, a 2011 Whiteland Community High School graduate. Close, also a senior, decided another season of college baseball would help his prospects moving forward.
Toman’s role is to essentially have no role.
“I leave it up to the player and their family. It’s just another step in the right direction for our program for Ashton and Alex to come back and play another year. Obviously we wanted them back,” Toman said.
“Ashton’s (negotiations) kind of went down to the wire with the Braves, and I was praying he would come back.”
Naturally, the coach would prefer all Liberty players with college athletics eligibility remain to spend another season or two in a Flames uniform.
But that’s not his choice.
Toman often finds himself emotionally torn when it comes to the future, both immediate and long-range, of his players.
His job is to win baseball games. The better players Toman has, the likelier this becomes. However, he also is happy for Flames players who could be on track to a long and highly lucrative MLB career.
Last year’s quartet bumped the total number of drafted Liberty players to 58 in the baseball program’s 41-year history. The Flames also have had at least one player taken in every MLB draft since 2000.
Perritt has been a center fielder and relief pitcher his first three seasons. Toman is toying with the idea of sending Perritt and his mid-90s fastball to the hill to start games.
Slowing Toman’s decision is the fact Perritt recently battled a stomach virus in which he lost 11 pounds.
Perritt is fine now but still not back to the 205 pounds he’s advertised at in Liberty game programs.
“With Ashton sick, I don’t know if he can go five or six innings because of the weight he’s lost,” Toman said. “Starting him helps us win, but Ashton will do anything for the team.”
Perritt’s combination of talent, versatility and selflessness in all likelihood gets him drafted again late in the spring.
Toman knows this time there’s no turning back.