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Tennessee Transfer Commit Eric Rataczak Explains Thought Process Entering MLB Draft

Tennessee Baseball
Photo via Niagara Athletics

Tennessee baseball earned a major win in the transfer portal earlier this week when Niagara first baseman Eric Rataczak committed to the Vols over Wake Forest.

But landing a commitment from Rataczak was just half the battle for Tennessee as they look to get the left-handed hitter on campus. A rising redshirt senior, Rataczak is draft eligible and could potentially opt to begin his professional career instead of playing his final season at Tennessee.

Rataczak discussed his thought process entering the MLB Draft with RTI earlier this week.

“What I think personally is that going and playing in the SEC and playing for Tennessee would be very very beneficial for me for a lot of reasons,” Rataczak said. “I don’t think it would hinder my abilities professionally. But the problem is with my age is that another year older is another year less valued draft wise in the scout’s eyes. While I think it would be a slam dunk to go to Tennessee and play there and then join up with the pro ball route, not everyone that is making the professional decisions sees it that way.”

Age is the hindrance for Rataczak’s professional future. He’s currently 23-years old and turns 24 in January before his potential redshirt senior season.

Rataczak has one of the more unique college baseball journeys imaginable. He started his college career as a student playing at the club team at San Diego before not going to school at all in 2020-21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The left-handed hitter played at two different junior colleges during the 2021-22 school year before returning to San Diego as a student on the club team in 2022-23. But after dominating in a summer ball league in 2023, Niagara gave him a chance and he made it count hitting .396 with 17 home runs on his way to earning MAAC Player of the Year honors.

More From RTI: Former Tennessee LHP Matthew Dallas Commits To Wake Forest

Rataczak’s uncharacteristic path kept him from being on MLB radars before this draft but age is already a deterrent for teams looking at the Niagara first baseman. That problem will only get worse in the next year.

“What I’m going to have to do in the next couple days here is me and my advisor are going to sit down with a long list of hypotheticals and how we’re going to approach them and kind of figure out what we’re looking for in terms of a cutoff whether it’s a round or a signing bonus type deal to try and figure out those numbers so we can figure out a better idea of how we’re going to go in the draft game plan wise,” Rataczak said. “It will come down to the potential problem is if my name does get called and I don’t take it to play at Tennessee, there’s a chance that it doesn’t get called next year. There’s always that possibility so for a guy like me that’s dreamed of playing professional baseball, that’ll be a tough choice to make.”

One thing working in Tennessee’s favor for Rataczak professionally is that he wants to get into exercise sciences after his playing days are over.

Tennessee Director of Baseball Performance Quentin Eberhardt is one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the country and followed a similar path, playing Minor League Baseball before getting into this field. Rataczak and Eberhardt hit it off when the first baseman visited Tennessee last weekend.

“Not only will he be super valuable in getting me right and getting all of our guys right on the field in terms of strength, mobility and conditioning but he also kind of presents me with the possibility of being another contact that I can have professionally outside of baseball potentially in that line of work,” Rataczak said. “There are probably a lot of things I can learn from him not only that will get me right on the field but that I could take into my own career once baseball is over.”

The 2024 MLB Draft begins on Sunday, July 14 and runs through Tuesday, July 16. Stay tuned to for complete Tennessee coverage of the MLB Draft.

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