While members of the 2008 recruiting class like Julio Jones, Don'ta Hightower, and Marcell Dareus are making their names on the gridiron, perhaps we shouldn't forget Destin Hood and Melvin Ray, two Alabama signees from that class who ultimately pursued a career in Major League Baseball.
Fortunately for Hood, things are seemingly beginning to work out well. He had a rough go of things in 2009, to put it mildly. He looked pretty good playing Rookie League ball, but after he moved up to the Short-Season A league with the Vermont Lake Monsters things turn a pretty dramatic turn for the worse. He only hit .246 there, which is bad enough in its own right, but even worst considering that he didn't hit for power and struck out once approximately every three at-bats.
Again, though, things have turned around for Hood early in 2010. He is now playing for the Hagerstown Suns, the Nationals Single A affiliate, and is off to a pretty strong start. He is still striking out entirely too much -- pretty common for young kids, though -- but he has raised his batting average above .300 and the extra base hits are starting to come around. The thinking within the Nats organization is that he will apparently be seeing a promotion to high A ball with the Potomac Nationals in the near future.
William Yoder over The Nats Blog now has Hood as the #8 prospect in the Nationals organization, and recently had the following to say:
Perhaps the sting of missing out on a college football national championship was exactly what Destin Hood needed to kick it in gear. Hood signed with the Nationals, foregoing a football scholarship at the University of Alabama. After struggling in his first season and a half as a pro, Hood is on a tear in his first 21 games batting .368/.385/.483 with a homer and five doubles. If he continues to hit for a high average and improves on his defense, he should see a promotion soon.
Obviously making the show is no guarantee for Hood, but he is progressing pretty nicely. Hopefully he can keep things up and start making the big bucks in the big leagues one day soon. If nothing else, he looks to be progressing much faster than many prospects do. And no, per published reports several weeks back, Hood is not bitter about missing out on a national championship in Tuscaloosa, and seems genuinely content to be following his life's passion.
As for Ray, on the other hand, I'm afraid the report is much more bleak. He spent 2009 in Rookie League ball with the Arizona Dodgers, and he had about as bad of a go of things as possible. He only played in 29 games, and in those 29 games he hit .130, had only four extra base hits, and struck out on approximately 60% of his trips to the plate. Moving on to 2010, I'm not even sure he's still playing. There are no news articles about him, and I cannot find anywhere definitively indicating that he will even be back in Rookie ball later this June. Hopefully it will work out well for him, but I'm afraid to say that things aren't looking good at the moment.