Roller, a standout slugger for the Raiders and later the East Carolina University Pirates, had just been drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 47th round of the 2009 draft.
Roller had to decide whether to take his chances and go pro, or return to school, play some summer ball in hopes of raising his stock, and try again this season.
And, considering the fact that injury is always a possibility in baseball, the second option wasn’t guaranteed success at all.
Nevertheless, Roller opted for the latter choice, and it appears to have paid off big-time: Tuesday night, the New York Yankees selected Roller in the eighth round of the 2010 draft.
It’s the closing of one chapter and the opening of an exciting new one for Roller, who Wednesday afternoon was on his way to the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, Fla. to work out the details of a contract and start his pro career.
In a sign of the times perhaps, Roller wasn’t waiting by the phone Tuesday night, but instead learned of his selection online, as he followed draft results on his computer.
“It’s a big relief,” Roller said. “I knew the Yankees were one of the teams that were interested in me.”
Other interested teams included the Kansas City Royals, Philadelphia Phillies and the As (again).
Roller said he’d been told by baseball sources he could be drafted anywhere from the fifth to the 10th round.
“That’s one of the hardest things about the process,” Roller said.
“Some people tell you one thing, others tell you something else.”
The difference-maker this past season for Roller was a 2009 summer spent in the Cape Cod League — a wood-bat league for collegiate players hoping to draw the attention of big-league scouts.
Popularized in the 2001 motion picture, “Summer Catch,” the league has sent 217 players to “The Show,” including Jason Bay of the New York Mets; Gordon Beckham of the Chicago White Sox; Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox; and Mark Texeira of the New York Yankees, among many others.
“I figured I’d have a better shot of being drafted higher this year if I went up there,” Roller said.
The move appears to have paid off handsomely.
In a league that features the best of the best college players, Roller was named MVP.
Playing for the Bourne (Mass.) Braves, Roller hit a robust .342, with 10 homers and 33 RBIs in 42 games to help lead the Braves to their first Cape Cod League title in 44 years.
He amassed a .644 slugging percentage and a .449 on-base percentage.
He was also named the MVP of the league tournament.
Back at school, Roller just wrapped up an excellent senior season for the Pirates.
An All-Conference USA first-team selection, Roller batted .324 for the Pirates in 2010, with 12 homers and 48 RBIs.
He also set a new team record for walks with 61, and took one for the team 22 times (third on the Pirate all-time list in that category).
Roller leaves ECU with 51 career homers, tied for second all-time at the school behind Winfred Johnson’s 70 from 1983-86.
He’s the 15th player drafted during the tenure of current Pirate skipper Billy Godwin.
The next few weeks will be a time of transition for Roller, as he puts college behind him and prepares for the grind that minor league baseball can be.
Roller said there’s a good chance he may begin his career playing for the Staten Island Yankees of the New York-Pennsylvania League.
A short-season Class A affiliate of the Yankees, Staten Island’s season begins next Friday, June 18, and runs through Sunday, Sept. 5.
For now, Roller just plans to make the most of the opportunity.
“Baseball is a game where you fail a lot,” Roller said.
“I just have to remember that, and not try to do too much. I’ll just take things as they come and try not to put too much pressure on myself. This is my foot in the door.”
Contact sports editor David Vantress at 997-3111, ext. 14 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.