There were times during the season when none of this seemed real to Brian O'Keefe.
That all changed - forever - in the last week.
That's when O'Keefe, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound junior catcher for St. Joseph's, came under the close scrutiny of scouts, coaches, and front-office types in a series of workouts for executives with the Yankees, Phillies, Mets, Pirates, and Nationals.
"They conducted the workouts right there in the ballparks," said O'Keefe, projected by some to go in the middle rounds of the draft, which begins Thursday. "I started to feel the anxiety, the tightening in my stomach. And then I just settled in. This is something I dreamed about all my life. I relaxed, and it started to get a little easier."
O'Keefe is the 244th-rated prospect, according to Baseball America. Recently named to the Atlantic 10 Conference first team, he was able to keep his mind off the draft during the season as the Hawks posted a career-high 35 wins.
The Albany, N.Y., resident played a significant role in the Hawks' success, hitting .350 with 43 RBIs. His 58 runs scored tied the school single-season record. Behind the plate, O'Keefe committed just five errors in 333 chances (.985 fielding percentage) and threw out 14 attempted base stealers.
This came on the heels of a productive sophomore season in which O'Keefe led the team in at-bats, hits, home runs, and RBIs.
Though he did not make the final cut to three as a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award, presented annually to baseball's top collegiate catcher, O'Keefe was among the final 15. He was named to the all-Big Five team this week.
Asked whether he thought he might return to St. Joseph's if he is drafted rather than begin his climb through the minor leagues, O'Keefe made it clear what he would do.
"Honestly, it is a tough decision," said O'Keefe, a business major. "I have had so much fun here - we're like family - that leaving would be difficult. But this is a lifelong dream of mine that I've had since my days of playing T-ball."