Buckley Reunion Is Paying Off For Reds
CHICAGO—The player has obvious power potential, with a strong 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame and the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field. He bashed 10 homers in 51 games as a sophomore at St. Petersburg (Fla.) CC this spring.
With soft hands and a strong arm, he should be a solid defender at third base once he improves his footwork. He runs the 60-yard dash in 6.6 seconds, showing good speed under way and the ability to move to right field if necessary.
You'd think that package of tools would entice any scouting director. But the Reds' Chris Buckley wasn't interested in selecting the St. Pete third baseman.
That's because Sean Buckley didn't want him to.
"My son really wanted to do things on his own, so I stepped back," says Chris, who has run Cincinnati's drafts for thelast six years. "But our scouts kept going in to see him."
"I would have thought there was 0 percent chance going into draft day that the Reds would pick me," Sean says. "I always talked to the Reds and the guys my dad worked with, and most of them wanted to draft me. But my dad never wanted to draft me to avoid the father-son situation. I wanted to avoid it too."
Rising Up The Charts
At the beginning of 2011, Sean wasn't concerned about the draft. He just wanted to stay healthy.
After his senior year at King High in Tampa, the Cubs selected Sean in the 29th round of the 2008 draft. Though Chicago scouting director Tim Wilken worked with Chris in the Blue Jays organization and remains a close friend, it wasn't a courtesy pick. The Cubs offered Sean early-round money, but his parents thought he wasn't ready for pro ball.
Sean's decision to attend South Florida didn't work out as planned. He got sick right before the start of the 2009 season, then had an allergic reaction to antibiotics. He lost 30 pounds and ultimately redshirted. His second year with the Bulls didn't go much better. He performed well in fall practice but broke the hamate bone in his left wrist. He wasn't at full strength in the spring, when he got just 60 at-bats and didn't see any time at third base.
Sean got back on track after transferring to St. Pete CC. He ran well at the team's scout day workout, and the Major League Scouting Bureau turned him in as an early-round prospect. Chris watched him play in early January and heard fellow scouts throw Corey Hart and Hunter Pence comparisons on his son, yet he still planned to respect Sean's wishes.
His colleagues with the Reds had other ideas. Area scout Greg Zunino, national crosscheckers Mark McKnight and Mark Snipp and assistant Latin American scouting director Miguel Machado took multiple looks at Sean.
Snipp, who first worked with Chris 20 years ago in Toronto, had seen Sean even before high school and liked his swing and arm strength even then. After he watched Sean play in April, Snipp called Chris.
"I told Chris, 'Sean might be better than you think,' " Snipp says. "He reminded me a lot of Matt Holliday, another kid who I've known forever. In high school, Matt showed ability but he wasn't consistent, and he turned into a great player."
Snipp believed Sean was worth a third- or fourth-round pick. When he passed through those rounds on the second day of the draft, the crosschecker started working the phone.
Snipp called Sean and got him on board, telling him he was a legitimate prospect and that he'd hate to look up one day and see him in the big leagues with another club. Snipp checked with Chris' wife Ellen to make sure she'd be comfortable with Sean becoming a Red. Snipp also consulted with Cincinnati GM Walt Jocketty, who liked Sean's scouting reports.
That left one person to win over. When the fifth round ended, Chris asked the Reds' draft room whom they should target next. Snipp walked over, pulled Sean's name off the draft board and told Chris to call his son. He did, and a few minutes later Cincinnati nabbed Sean with the 205th overall pick.
Sean signed for $125,000, and Chris notes those negotiations went much more smoothly than trying to get his son to cut the lawn. He put any thoughts of nepotism to rest with his pro debut, hitting .289/.372/.551 with 14 homers and ranking 12th on our Rookie-level Pioneer League prospects list. His Billings teammates didn't even bother to tease him about it.
"They all told me I played pretty well and saw I wasn't here just because of my father and I belonged," Sean says. "That was one of the things I worried about the most."
"It really is special," says Chris, who may have to go through this again in 2014 because his youngest son Kevin has similar tools and already is 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds as a King sophomore. "I've watched him work for years and he's earned everything he's got. It's always important to me when we sign a kid, if he's going to work hard enough to be everything he can be. Sean will."