Everybody knew someone like Darren Fischer in grade school.

When teachers asked what everyone in class wanted to be when they grew up, Fischer was the one who confidently said he wanted to be a professional baseball player.

Even as he got older and teachers and friends started to ask what his backup plans were or what he'd do when baseball was over, Fischer remained steadfast.

Forget backup plans.

"I always really, really believed that I was going to play pro ball," Fischer said. "I was meant to play pro ball. No matter what anyone told me, I just knew it."

Fischer was on to something.

The 20-year-old Bridgeton native and sophomore at the College of Central Florida was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 16th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Saturday.

It was the second time Fischer was drafted. He was taken by the Los Angeles Angels in the 46th round during his senior season at Cumberland Regional High School in 2010.

Fischer was a first-team Press All-Star pitcher that spring after going 5-5 with a 1.88 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 63 innings for the Colts. He also batted .422.

Not happy with how low he was drafted and wanting more time to develop, Fischer decided not to sign with the Angels in 2010. He took the following year off school before winding up at the College of Central Florida, a Division I junior college.

He had a solid freshman season there and received interest from major-league teams but was not drafted again.

This season, Fischer's sophomore year of eligibility, also didn't go as planned.

He missed time early in the season with a minor injury and then missed the end of the season after struggling in the classroom and being suspended from the baseball team due to low grades.

Fischer was 1-0 in 20 innings pitched. The left-hander struck out 22 and walked 10 with a 5.75 ERA. He also spent time in the outfield and at designated hitter, batting .270 (20-for-74) with three doubles and a home run.

Fischer was invited to pre-draft workouts in San Diego and Tampa and knew he needed to do well.

"I put myself in that situation," Fischer said. "I knew in order to get drafted I had to tear up those workouts and I did that."

Fischer said he was the last of 10 pitchers at the workout in Tampa to throw off the mound at Tropicana Field. He threw 90 and 91 mph that day. He also asked if he could hit. Scouts didn't let Fischer hit that day but they were glad they let him run.

Fischer said he ran the 60-yard dash in 6.6 seconds, a personal best.

His coaches in college said that some teams saw him as more than just a pitcher.

Gary Fischer, Darren's father, said his son loved baseball from an early age.

And while some kids were worried about getting snacks or drinks after a game, "he would be the kid getting extra grounders in," Gary said.

Gary said he was proud of his son not giving up on his dream.

"He continued to work," Gary Fischer said. "You can't teach the drive. You have to have that drive in you, and Darren does."

The younger Fischer already has some ties to major-leaguers.

Fischer was briefly a teammate of Mike Trout's on a youth traveling team. He was also on the North Cumberland team that won the 2008 Little League Baseball Senior League World Series title in Bangor, Maine.

Fischer was the winning pitcher and hit the game-winning home run as North Cumberland beat highly regarded 20-year-old Texas Rangers rookie shortstop Jurickson Profar and his team from Willemstad, Curacao, 10-8.

Fischer said he hasn't yet negotiated a contract or been told where he will report for the Rays, although was he told reporting directly to single-A, rather than rookie ball, was a possibility.

Fischer committed to play at Tennessee Wesleyan College next season but said there is no doubt he will instead pursue his professional career this time.

"It was a struggle, it really was," Fisher said of his journey to a professional career. "There were a lot of ups and downs and wondering if I made the right choice, but I remember one of my friends telling me that everything happens for a reason."

Contact John O’Kane:

609-272-7210