As he had done countless times already in the previous 24 hours, Hunter Dula hopped on his computer to check the MLB Draft Tracker. He had heard from a few teams earlier that morning gauging his interest in being drafted on the final day of the MLB Draft that was made up of Rounds 11-20.
But his phone had remained silent. Seven rounds had already blazed by and he had yet to get the call from a team that he was being drafted.
Then, with no prior warning, the Draft Tracker website updated to read: “Round 18, Pick 536, the San Francisco Giants select Hunter Dula, Pitcher from Wingate University.”
“There were only 600 picks for the entire world, so there was definitely some shock to it,” Dula said. “But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I saw my name and I was like, ‘Well, I guess I’m going to be a San Francisco Giant.’ ”
Dula, a 2017 graduate of South Iredell High School and a member of the Statesville Owls in 2019, is the first player from Wingate to be selected in the MLB Draft since 2017 and is coming off the high of winning the NCAA Division II National Championship with the Bulldogs on June 12.
Wingate entered the tournament as the six-seed, ranked 16th in the country after winning the South Atlantic Conference Tournament. After losing their first game in the eight-team Championship Bracket, the Bulldogs rolled off four consecutive wins to reach their first ever DII World Series where they defeated Central Missouri 5-3.
“After we swept the regionals, my brother called me and told me that we had a legitimate shot of winning the whole thing,” Dula said. “Some people called us a Cinderella Story, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you call us. We’re number one now.”
During the stretch of 15 games, starting with the beginning of the SAC Tournament, Dula posted stellar numbers, both on the mound and with the bat, to help his team reach the mountaintop. Dula drove in 15 runs, including a walk-off single to beat Angelo State in the semifinals while also smacking six home runs. On the mound, he compiled a 2-1 record in four starts, striking out 16 and posting a 5.32 earned run average.
Dula wasn’t the only member of the National Champion Bulldogs to get picked up by an MLB team last week. Fellow pitcher Tommy McCollum was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies.
“That’s a testament to the coaching staff at Wingate,” Dula said. “It’s pretty rare at the DII level to have a shot at professional baseball. For two guys to come off the same team in the same year is even better.
“After I talked to my coach, I was thinking in my head about our roster and I realized we could have guys going to major league programs for the next three years,” Dula continued. “That’s how good they are at developing players.”
The coaches at Wingate had helped Dula’s development so much that during his final season with the Bulldogs three MLB teams were regularly coming to games to watch him pitch. One of those was the team that drafted him, the Giants, but the Oakland A’s and Atlanta Braves were also keeping a close eye on him.
Growing up as a Braves fan, the idea of getting picked by his favorite team was exciting.
“Before (July 13) I was a Braves fan all the way,” Dula said with a laugh. “But in the end, it could have been anybody. I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”
Dula didn’t have too much time to celebrate getting drafted. Just four days after getting the phone call from the Giants, the team flew him out to Arizona to begin work with their rookie league team.
Scottsdale, Arizona, is a long way from Troutman, North Carolina, but it’s a change that Dula looks forward to.
“This is part of the reason I love baseball. It takes you places in the world that, without it, you may never go,” he said. “Without (this opportunity) I may never get to go to Scottsdale or Eugune (Oregon).”
The journey through the Giants’ minor league system will start in Scottsdale and move through San Jose, California, and Eugene before moving back towards the east coast with Double-A Richmond.
“I gotta make it to Richmond quick so that I’m closer to home,” Dula said. “I want to be in Double-A by 2023, but I’m going to take it step-by-step at this point, but I think it’s doable.”