By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa. – Many baseball players are drafted after their junior year in college and begin their professional careers that same summer.
Curve catcher Jason Delay was selected in the 11th round of the 2016 MLB draft by the San Francisco Giants after his junior season at Vanderbilt, but didn’t sign and elected to return to school for his senior campaign.
At this time, it looks like Delay made a good decision.
“There were a lot of reasons,” Delay said recently at Peoples Natural Gas Field. “It boiled down that I wanted to be back at school and get my degree. I wanted to finish my degree and also to win a championship with guys I had played with three years.”
Delay earned his degree in economics his senior year at Vanderbilt and now is working toward his MBA at Johns Hopkins.
Delay didn’t win a baseball championship his senior season – the Commodores won the NCAA National Championship his freshman year — but the Pirates liked what they saw and drafted Delay in the fourth round.
“I have nothing but good things to say about Vanderbilt,” he said. “I feel like I really matured there. Coach Corbin does a really nice job with players … developing boys into men. A lot has to do with the academic rigor, too. It’s tough and you really have to take care of your business off the field as well as on the field.”
Originally from Georgia, Delay now lives in Nashville.
“For a long time, I wanted to go to Virginia,” he said of his college choice, “but, when I went to Vandy and saw the facility, I didn’t go anywhere else.”
Delay roomed with Bryan Reynolds when they were juniors at Vanderbilt. Reynolds was a standout with the Curve last season and has been impressive as a Pirate rookie this year.
“He’s one of my best friends,” Delay said of Reynolds. “I was in his wedding last offseason and I talk to him almost every day. I love to see the success he’s having.
“He’s an unbelievable ballplayer,” Delay continued. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him hit under .300.”
By staying for his senior year of college, Delay’s draft status jumped from 11th round (Giants) to fourth round (Pirates) so that worked out well for the young catcher.
As a senior at Vandy, Delay hit .309 with 18 doubles and 41 RBIs in 59 games.
“The draft gets pretty hectic and my agent took care of things,” he said. “I was really happy with the fourth round … I felt like I got a lot from that extra year in college.”
After signing, Delay played 2017 at rookie-level Bristol where he hit .252 in 29 games and was promoted to the short-season West Virginia Black Bears for five games. He spent all of the 2018 season at Bradenton (advanced-A) and batted .267 in 67 games.
That earned him a promotion to Double-A Altoona this season and he’s had some success in the first half of the Eastern League. As of June 1, Delay had a .313 average with five homers and 18 RBIs.
“I had a hot run for a couple weeks where I was seeing the ball really well,” he said. “I was taking more aggressive swings and trying to do damage … not just make contact. That put me in better position to take better swings, see the ball earlier and check off pitches that weren’t in the zone.
“So far, so good,” Delay said. “The Eastern League is a good league. I like Altoona. The stadium is unbelievable and the competition is good so I only have good things to say.”