Former Montague star and Davenport University third baseman Jacob Buchberger made his pro choice over the weekend, opting to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Davenport baseball Twitter account broke the news late Sunday night, and Buchberger posted a statement to his own Twitter account (@Jakebuch02) Monday afternoon confirming the signing.
Buchberger had pivoted from his original summer plan of playing summer baseball for the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Sunfish of the Expedition League after that franchise canceled its season due to COVID-19, and had signed up with the Souris Valley (N.D.) Sabre Dogs of the same league. He was on his way to near Chicago to meet with his parents on the way to North Dakota — in fact, he was only about 15 minutes away — when he received a call that the Cardinals would be offering him a contract.
"It means a lot," Buchberger said. "I respect that they gave me an opportunity to be able to play. I'm super grateful for that opportunity. To be able to say Mark McGwire hit a bunch of home runs there (and now I'll be playing for them) is pretty cool."
Buchberger, who told the Muskegon Chronicle that he'd also heard informally from the Milwaukee Brewers and the Chicago White Sox, said he was told by his advisor that St. Louis wasn't the only team to offer him a contract, but the advisor recommended he sign with the Cardinals. The franchise has a sterling reputation inside the game for player development.
"They're a well-respected organization and develop players as well as anyone in the league," Buchberger said.
As a pro now, Buchberger isn't eligible to compete for a collegiate summer league team, so his new summer plans will revolve around getting ready to play whenever he can. A minor league 2020 season has been reported to be unlikely, but at some point Buchberger will take a physical so that he can officially join the organization. He said the hope is that he will be able to report to Jupiter, Fla. this fall for instructional league, which may be expanded from its usual one month to two to accommodate players that have had their seasons cut.
In the meantime, he will continue to lift weights and run each day, and might travel to get some work in with other pro players. He added that he'll also field ground balls and take batting practice off his dad, Montague coach Kevin Buchberger, "if his arm can hold up".
Buchberger had another year of eligibility at Davenport if he had wanted it, due to an NCAA ruling granting all spring sports athletes another year after COVID-19 canceled all spring sports. However, he had nothing more to prove at the collegiate level after earning All-America honors as a junior — the first Davenport player ever to do so at the Division II level — and being named Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference player of the year.
Before COVID-19 ended the 2020 season, Buchberger was performing even better as a senior, hitting .525 with six home runs in only 61 at-bats. Davenport coach Kevin Tidey said last week that he had been hearing from a lot more clubs about his star third baseman than the year prior, when Buchberger had been expected to be a late-round draft pick, but went undrafted.
Buchberger would have been a lock to be a draft pick in a regular 40-round draft, but MLB and its players' association agreed to make major cuts to the draft this year and next, with only five rounds this season and 20 rounds in 2021. Each team is permitted to sign as many undrafted players as it wants, with a maximum signing bonus of $20,000 per player.