Campbell’s baseball team had four players selected in this year’s Major League Baseball Draft: Seth Johnston, Matthew Barefoot, Tyson Messer and Michael Horrell.
Seth Johnson was the first Camel selected, taken 40th overall in the second round by the Tampa Bay Rays. That makes him the program’s highest overall pick, topping former catcher John Posey, who went 44th in the 1986 Draft.
Johnson was a highly touted pitching prospect coming into the season, despite never pitching for his high school team and only having thrown six innings his sophomore season at Louisburg College while primarily playing shortstop. The junior transfer served solely as a pitcher in his one season at Campbell and lived up to the hype. In 66 and one-third innings, Johnson racked up 85 strikeouts. Scouts are excited about Johnson’s potential. His stuff is already impressive, with his fastball sitting in the mid-90’s and his slider and change-up showing plenty of promise. And his best pitching is expected to be ahead of him as he continues to develop on the mound.
Matthew Barefoot was next to come off the board, taken 196th overall in the sixth round by the Houston Astros. The Midway alumnus wrapped up his Campbell career as a three-time All Big South selection. He was named first team all-conference this season after leading the Camels in runs scored (59), home runs (14), RBIs (48) and slugging percentage (.570). He was also named to the Big South Tournament and the NCAA Greenville Regional All-Tournament Teams. Campbell baseball coach Justin Haire had high praise for the redshirt junior in the final weeks of the season.
“He’s basically already a professional hitter for us, has been for the last three years,” Haire said of Barefoot after the Camels won the Big South Tournament. “Nobody shows up with a more consistent mindset than Matt Barefoot.”
That mindset took root early in Barefoot’s career, back in his days at Midway. He stressed the importance of resiliency and learning how to win, something he’s done a lot of as both a Raider and a Camel, winning a state championship in high school and bringing back-to-back conference championships to Campbell for the first time in program history.
“You’ve got to be mentally tough,” Barefoot said. “Things are not always going to go your way and you have to be able to respond to adverse situations if you’re going to make it to that next level.”
Tyson Messer was the third Camel selected, going 260th overall in the ninth round to the Chicago White Sox. The Harnett Central alumnus was an important member of Campbell’s bullpen the last couple of seasons. He averaged 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings pitched for his career and finished fourth all-time in career saves with 14. He held opponents to a .158 batting average (.087 in Big South play). He had some big moments down the stretch for Campbell, picking up saves both in the Big South Tournament final against Winthrop and in the NCAA Regional opener against N.C. State.
The selection of Barefoot and Messer marks back-to-back years in which two players from Record high schools have been selected in the MLB Draft. Last year, Tanner Myatt (Overhills class of 2016, Florence-Darlington Tech 2016-2018) was taken with the 337th overall pick in the 11th round by the New York Yankees, and Trent Fennell (Triton class of 2014, Barton College 2014-2018) was taken with the 726th pick in the 24th round by the Colorado Rockies. Myatt pitches for the Charleston RiverDogs, the Yankees’ Class A affiliate. Fennell pitches for the Boise Hawks, the Rockies’ Class A Short Season affiliate.
Rounding out the four Campbell selections, Michael Horrell was taken 916th overall in the 30th round by the Houston Astros. The Big South Pitcher of the Year, Horrell finished his four-year career fifth in ERA (3.15) and wins (15), and eighth in strikeouts (185). He’s the second-straight Camel and third in program history to win Big South Pitcher of the Year (Alan Winans, 2018; Ryan Thompson, 2013). Horrell posted a career-high 11 strikeouts and no walks in Campbell’s 5-4 upset over N.C. State in the NCAA Regional, pitching seven strong innings before a lightning delay hit. He was one of two pitchers to make the Greenville Regional All-Tournament Team, joining ECU’s Jake Agnos, who was taken in the fourth round by the Yankees.
Coincidentally, Horrell and Barefoot were roommates while at Campbell, and now they’ll both be joining the Astros’ organization. Unsure if whether he’d be selected, Horrell was playing Fortnite with Barefoot to try and ease his mind. Horrell’s girlfriend was in the room with them, and got an alert saying he had just been drafted by the Astros in the 30th round. Horrell immediately dropped out of the game and picked up the phone.
“I ended up losing,” Barefoot said with a laugh. “But I was so happy for him. It’s really cool that we’ve been through so much together at Campbell, and now we get to continue our journey together.”
It’s possible that all four prospects could make their way through North Carolina at some point as the Astros, White Sox and Rays all have minor league teams in the state. Most notably, the Fayetteville Woodpeckers are the Class A-Advanced affiliate for the Astros. That means Barefoot, who chose to stay close to home and play at Campbell, could find himself playing roughly 30 minutes down the road from where he grew up.
“It seems like I just can’t get away from this place,” Barefoot joked. “But that’s a good thing. It would be great to play so close to home and have that support group nearby, being able to see my family and friends.”
The White Sox have three N.C. based affiliates: the Kannapolis Intimidators (Class A), the Winston Salem Dash (Class A-Advanced) and the Charlotte Knights (Class AAA). And the Rays’ Class AAA affiliate is the most famous team in the state: the Durham Bulls. So it’s very possible that all four Camels could find themselves back in North Carolina in the next few years.
This year’s four draftees makes 13 total Camels taken since 2009, joining Alan Winans (17th round, New York Mets, 2018), Heath Bowers (24th round, Oakland Athletics, 2015), Steven Leonard (23rd round, Colorado Rockies, 2015), Cedric Mullins (13th round, Baltimore Orioles, 2015), Ryan Thompson (23rd round, Houston Astros, 2014), Matt Marksberry (15th round, Atlanta Braves, 2013), Ben McQuown (30th round, Oakland Athletics, 2013), Jake Smith (48th round, San Francisco Giants, 2011) and Ryan Hamme (31st round, Chicago White Sox, 2009).