WEST DEPTFORD, N.J.—Jason Groome was packing his equipment bag Thursday night at Union Field when the realization hit him.
“I was like, ‘It’s over. No more playing high school baseball,’ ” said Groome, a standout senior left-hander for Barnegat High School.
The scholastic part of Groome’s baseball career concluded with Barnegat’s 2-1 loss to West Deptford in a NJSIAA South Group II semifinal. Groome was the losing pitcher in the game because he gave up two runs in the first inning that probably could have been prevented with better defense by the Bengals.
“(Barnegat head coach Dan McCoy) said. ‘This is the last time any of you guys are going to be playing with Jay,’ ” Groome said. “This is my last time playing with any of these guys.”
However, it is far from the last time Groome will be putting on a baseball uniform.
The next time many in the baseball world will see Groome will be June 9 at the MLB Network studios in Secaucus when he likely is selected in the first round of Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft. Groome is expected to be selected within the first 10 selections.
“I just want to go somewhere where I’m going to be protected and feel comfortable,” Groome said. “If it doesn’t work out, then I get to go to Vanderbilt for three years. (Groome has signed a National Letter of Intent to Vanderbilt.) I’m just excited for what my future holds.”
Groome, who at one point this spring was rated the No. 1 prospect in the country by Baseball America and was projected to be selected by the Philadelphia Phillies with the first pick in the draft, said it was a “family decision” as to what part of the first round he had to be selected by in order to choose the professional route over the college route.
“It would be awesome if I was in the Top 10. To even get drafted in the first round would be awesome,” Groome said. “It would mean a lot. It would mean all the hard work paid off. I’m just looking forward to what is in store for my career.”
And if he somehow falls out of the Top 10 picks, there is of course the fallback position of the team with the No. 12 overall pick — the Boston Red Sox.
“I would be ecstatic to go to my favorite team. That would be awesome,” Groome said.
Between now and the draft, Groome said he will be in the weight room every day, lifting and trying to get stronger. He also will long-toss every 2-3 days.
“I just want to stay in shape. I don’t want to stop throwing until the draft,” Groome said.
Groome said he will be meeting with some teams between now and the draft. He said he will meet with members of the Cleveland Indians organization Friday in Barnegat. The Indians have the 16th overall pick.
He also said he will be flying out to Denver and San Diego to meet with members of the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres organizations. The Rockies have the fourth overall pick and the Padres the eighth overall pick.
He did say the Phillies have still been in contact with him. Reports out of Philadelphia in recent weeks have indicated the Phillies are leaning toward a couple of other players over Groome.
The dilemma the Phillies could run into is that their National League East rival Atlanta Braves select Groome with the No. 3 pick and Groome could wind up tormenting them for years.
Groome technically finished the season with a 1-3 record with a save. The no-hitter he pitched April 11 against Central Regional was forfeited because he pitched when he should have been ineligible under the NJSIAA’s transfer rules. He had 90 strikeouts and 14 walks 39 2/3 innings.
“I’m very excited for him. He’s got a bright future in front of him,” McCoy said.