Dakota Chalmers’ first order of business when he arrives in Mesa, Arizona next week will be to catch up with an old friend. At least, that’s the opportunity that shined brightest for Chalmers, who was offered enough coin Tuesday afternoon to bypass a full-ride scholarship at the University of Georgia to play professional baseball with the Oakland Athletics organization.
Chalmers, recently a star pitcher for North Forsyth High School, will begin the next chapter of his career with the AZL Athletics, a rookie league team just outside of Scottsdale. Former Forsyth Central catcher Michael Branigan, who was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, plays for the AZL D-backs. The two teams are just 10 miles apart and play each other on a regular basis.
Shortly after Chalmers was selected after hours of anxious waiting and negotiations with front offices, Branigan took to his Instagram account and posted a collage of photos of Chalmers and him from their years growing up. The mosaic included middle school selfies from photo booths, Falcons games and identical caveman costumes.
“So proud of this guy for getting drafted by the Athletics! Excited to see what life has in store for him and even more excited to play him,” Branigan posted.
Neither Chalmers nor his father disclosed the signing bonus that pulled Dakota from Georgia’s doghouse, but both father and son gleamed over the fact the two childhood friends would meet up again on the other side of the country. It was the icing on the cake for Chalmers, who also admitted, despite his family’s wishes of being drafted by the Braves, that he wanted his career to take him to the West Coast.
Just as Chalmers’ journey had gone to this point, nothing on the first two days of the draft went quite according to the script, but at the end of the day everything fell into place.
“We got lucky with that. The first thing I do when I get down there is hang out with him (Branigan),” Chalmers said. “We’ve been talking, he’s been texting me over the past couple of days giving advice, how to act, what to wear, what to do. He told me don’t be cocky, know what the coaches like and what they don’t like. As a high school kid you’ve got to stay humble.”
Chalmers and his father, Bill, both admitted that the night between Monday’s first few rounds and Tuesday, when he was finally selected 97th overall, was full of anxiety. It’s not that they were afraid he wouldn’t get picked, but that eventually he’d fall out of the threshold for “signing money.” The projected window for his selection was between the 30th and 45th overall picks heading into the draft.
“There are a lot of kids that were taking under what we would consider slot money,” Bill said. “Some of the teams we thought were interested in him would go for them, leaving a lot of projected first rounders on the board late, which just pushed everything back.”
“You go to bed at midnight thinking something’s up. Something doesn’t smell right. We called his advisor who said everything was going to work out. In the end it couldn’t have worked out any better. It was a relief and excitement at the same time,” Bill said.
Once the going moved to the third round, the Chalmers family stuck with their asking price for first and second round money—they had a solid Plan B with Georgia calling. In the end, Oakland bit.
“It’s a great organization to be in,” Chalmers said. “I’ve also wanted to be on the West Coast my whole life. And the way the A’s develop pitching is well known. It couldn’t be a better situation.”
For Chalmers, it’s simply another step in the right direction.
“It’s surreal, but then again it’s been my goal my entire life,” he said. “I haven’t made it yet. I’m trying to get on television.”