Cleveland picks McNeese ace
Dion taken in ninth round of baseball draft
Story by Jim Gazzolo
Will Dion’s year just keeps getting better and better.
After a record season at McNeese State, the left-hander’s dream came true Monday when he was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the ninth round of the Major League Baseball draft.
The Sulphur native went to the Indians with the 296th pick overall.
“This feels great,” said Dion. “It is a dream come true.”
Dion was the fifth player from the Southland Conference taken in this year’s draft and 24th in the ninth round overall.
“I have to admit I was starting to get a little concerned,” said Dion. “It was a very anxious day. You hear a lot of people are interested in you but you never know until they actually pick you and you get that phone call.”
When his call came Dion was happy to hear it was from Cleveland.
“They showed interest in me all year,” he said. “It’s exciting. They have a great pitching program. Everything they do fits me perfectly.
“I get to go to a place that is very good at developing pitchers. You can’t ask for anything more than that.”
Dion led McNeese during an up and down spring that saw the Cowboys streak to the Southland tournament title and the Texas Christian Regional before bowing out of the NCAA tourney.
During the year Dion posted a 9-4 record with 121 strike outs in 99.2 innings, a school record. He tied the Cowboy record for strikeouts in a game at 19 in the home opener against Prairie View. He also posted at 3.07 earned run average.
For his work Dion was named the SLC Pitcher of the Year and selected to the all-Louisiana team while winning numerous other honors. His college coach, Justin Hill, knows the Indians are getting a work horse.
“The thing with Will is they know exactly what they are getting,” Hill said. “He will go in there ready to work, ready to listen and ready to compete. Will is going to do great.
“The people who will work with him on a daily basis will be very happy with what they got, I can tell you that.”
Dion was at his best down the stretch as he won his last six decisions and allowed just two earned runs over his final 31 innings before the NCAA tournament.
He will become the 10th former McNeese player currently playing professional baseball when he signs.
“I just can’t compare how I’m feeling to anything else,” Dion said. “To get paid to play baseball, that is what you think about when you are a kid.”
Making it more meaningful was that he got to do it close to home.
“That makes this all worth it, to be able to play at the local school in front of family and friends is special,” said Dion. “And do be a part of helping a community come back from the hurricanes and all that has happened here, that makes this even more special.”
Dion said now the hard part begins, as he awaits to find out where he will be assigned after he signs his deal.
“The grind starts now,” Dion said. “I’m just going to keep throwing and staying in shape. This is one goal. The big dream is making it to the big leagues and playing in front of 50,000 fans.”
His journey has begun.