Casey Combs was with his family on a mission trip in Belize when he missed an important phone call. It was from the Miami Marlins who wanted to take the catcher from ETBU in the 27th round of the MLB draft.

“I got an email from the Marlins saying they couldn’t get a hold of him and I was like, ‘Who goes on a mission trip the week of the draft?’” ETBU head baseball coach Jared Hood said. “But I knew his dad would have his phone on him so I called Pat to make sure it was OK and Casey was definitely around when I told him who was trying to get a hold of him. I didn’t get to talk to Casey but I did talk to his dad and got some text messages from him so they’re all very excited.”

“We were headed to a restaurant where we could get some wifi and get on the internet on my phone and the Marlins were actually trying to call me,” Combs said. “I missed their call and I was kind of freaking out. Coach Hood called my dad and he said, ‘Man, the Marlins are trying to get a hold of you and Casey’s not picking up,’ and I was like, ‘Oh gosh, I just missed my shot at being drafted,’ but luckily, they were able to get through to my dad and my dad handed me the phone and I talked to representative of the Marlins and he told me I was going to hear my name and a little bit later, I saw my name pop up. It’s a pretty cool feeling.”

It’s a feeling that Combs said hasn’t completely sunk in yet.

“It’s an extremely surreal feeling,” he said. “Leading into the draft, I was skeptical about what was going to happen. I knew I had a good season but I knew that I also came from a very small Division III program and notoriety is not always easy but seeing all that hard work pay off and seeing my name officially pop up on the MLB Draft tracker is something I can’t really describe. I don’t think it’s hit me yet. I think it will hit me on my plane ride to Miami Friday. It’s been an unbelievable last few hours of celebrating with my family down here in Belize. It’s an experience I will definitely never forget. I’m glad I was able to be around my family when it happened.”

Combs capped off his college baseball career by being named the American Southwest Conference Player of the Year. He was named to two All-American first teams by and the American Baseball Coaches Association and was also the West Region Player of the Year.

As a senior, he had a team-high batting average of .417 to go along with his 68 hits, 48 RBI and 19 stolen bases and tied the team for most home runs with 13. He also had a career-high 11-game hitting stream and tied a career high of five hits against Louisiana College. He helped lead the Tigers to an overall record of 30-14 and a conference record of 17-7.

“I think I’ll always play with a chip on my shoulder,” Combs said when asked what he brings to the table for the Marlins. “I kind of mentioned in my tweet when I got drafted that I was always undersized my entire life. I really didn’t hit a growth spurt until I was 18, 19 or 20 years old. I always struggled to put on weight. I always struggled to be the best player I could because I was smaller than everybody else and I was able to walk onto a Division III program that I had no expectations of ever going to so I think that kind of puts an edge to me because a lot of these guys went different routes. I never gave up but I stayed true to where God placed me and I felt that what I was doing was the right thing. I thank the Marlins for taking a chance on me because I will give them absolutely everything I’ve got. I’m never going to stay content because I’m always working. I know it was small Division III program that I played at but I know deep down that I can be a lot better than a lot of these other catchers that were taken. I know I have the talent to do it. I was a little afraid that I wasn’t going to have the notoriety and the big school name so I’m very excited the Marlins took a chance on me and extremely grateful to them for it.”

“I think he brings an extreme work ethic, a superior knowledge of the game and the handling of pitching staffs I think is a big thing for him,” Hood said of He’s caught just about every game for us in his college career. I can’t imagine there being somebody with more experience behind the plate than him. From what he’s come from in being a semester transfer, basically a walk on and having to grow into his game and his body, I think it’s absolutely tremendous and it’s a measurable that you can’t put up anything against. He’s got a lot going for him that’s for sure.”

“I can promise the Marlins they’re going to get everything I have,” Combs said. “I know the work has just begun. I have a lot more work to do but I’m excited to see where this journey leads me.”