Seven Tar Heels head for big leagues

Having seven players from the 2013 roster that will sign professional contracts before the beginning of the 2014 baseball season is part of what makes the North Carolina baseball program.

“We want them to get drafted,” coach Mike Fox said. “We tell every recruit (that) part of developing them for the next level is part of what we do in this program.”

This year’s exiting group — which consists of graduated seniors Chaz Frank, Chris Munnelly and Cody Stubbs and juniors Kent Emanuel, Brian Holberton, Hobbs Johnson and Colin Moran — isn’t leaving the largest hole on a roster in the changing of seasons for coach Fox.

But the names of players leaving scatter the UNC record books in several areas.

“I’ve had a lot more (leave), but they’re seven good ones,” Fox said. “It’s a catch-22, because you want good players.

“But if you have good players, they’re going to get drafted. It’s just the nature of what we do.”

The loss of the seven players at the end of the season is about what the staff expected from the beginning. But for Munnelly, who signed with the Houston Astros June 24 as a free agent, it was an unexpected signing bonus.

“I didn’t expect (to be) a free agent, but honestly I feel like you get the same opportunity either way,” he said. “Knowing that two of my best friends (Holberton and Emanuel) in college were going to be playing with me.”

Each of the players is in different places in the transition — all three seniors have already made debut performances, Holberton and Johnson have yet to do so and Emanuel and Moran are still unsigned.

But the enthusiasm is the same.

“I’m just excited — knowing I get to turn (playing) into a job is just pretty cool,” Emanuel said. “I’m looking forward to just being able to advance through the system as quickly as possible.”

Having Tar Heel alumni moving through the professional ranks is something Fox anticipates and works around.

For him, part of the fun of the UNC baseball family is the connections that encircle the program and the way support continues.

As this summer’s group of professional rookies moves through programs, Fox is following along with other former players as they push their talents further as well.

“That’s the thrill of a lifetime,” Fox said. “You have to relish when you do get guys back, like this (past) season, and it all sort of aligns.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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