By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala - Just like his approach at the plate, Anfernee Grier had a solid strategy to manage the stressful hours during the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
"I was just real anxious, Grier said. "I was trying to keep my mind off it. My family was here. We were playing games. Anything I could to keep my mind off it."
Operation Distraction was working, until Anfernee's adviser called with news that the Arizona Diamondbacks were interested in taking Grier with the 39th pick.
"But he wasn't 100 percent sure they would select me, so I kind of found out when everybody else did, so it was very nerve-wracking," Grier said.
"Once I got the call saying the Diamondbacks were interested, time went by so slow. I was just anxious at that point," he said. "Very nervous. As the picks got closer and closer to 39, I got more and more nervous.
"When they finally made the announcement, I was just relieved, really just speechless. Just happy. It was worth the wait, I'll say that."
A steady stream of congratulatory text messages followed.
"It hasn't stopped. I just appreciate all of the support that I've gotten," he said.
Grier, Arizona's first pick in 2016, was taken in the compensation A round.
The Diamondbacks, busily executing their draft plans, did not call Thursday night until after they had made their second selection.
"Congratulated me. Said they would be in touch in the next couple days to handle my contract and all of the other stuff," Grier said.
That "other stuff" will include Anfernee's initial assignment, perhaps to Arizona's rookie league team in Missoula, Mont., or short-season A team in Hillsboro, Ore.
Steady production at Arizona's lower levels would eventually merit a promotion to the Diamondbacks' AA affiliate, the Mobile BayBears.
"I said, `Man, I've got to hurry up and get to double-A so my fans can come watch me,'" said Grier, a Phenix City native. "That's a good thing for me as well, knowing that I'll have the opportunity to play close to my family. That's going to be some motivation going into pro ball this summer."
Grier, the earliest Auburn MLB draftee in 15 years (Gabe Gross, No. 15, Toronto, 2001), concluded his college career as a first-team All-American and Golden Spikes Award semifinalist.
He led the SEC in runs, was second in homers and hits, and fourth in average.
For all of Anfernee's statistical supremacy, it's the friendships he will remember most fondly.
"Just being around my team. And being a part of the Auburn family. It was definitely special for me," Grier said.
"Anfernee had such a special season and has worked so hard," Auburn coach Butch Thompson said. "It's nice to see his character and hard work pay off. He will be a part of the Auburn family forever."
"I'm so glad I came to Auburn," Grier said. "The football games, I definitely won't forget. But the most important thing for me that will stick with me for a long time is developing a relationship with my teammates and my coaches. I really enjoyed the past three years. That's going to stick with me forever."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer