Justin Childers tried to keep calm as he waited for a call that would change his life.

Instead of being surrounded by family and friends, the 2014 Pickerington High School North graduate was alone in his room and playing the popular video game Fortnite on the afternoon of June 6 when the Detroit Tigers selected him in the 33rd round (975th overall) of the Major League Baseball draft.

"I was just sitting at home, both my parents were at work and I was playing a video game," Childers said. "One of (the Tigers') scouts called me during the 28th round and talked with me a little bit and asked me about positions, especially playing in the outfield. He said to stay awake and stay alert ... and they called me a little while later.

"This is something I've been dreaming about since I first started playing when I was 3 1/2. I started thinking it was possible when I was in high school. I always targeted this. Hard work and persistence can take you where you want to go."

Childers, the first former Panther to be drafted, was the first pick of the 33rd round. A total of 1,204 players were selected in 40 rounds.

Childers has been the Division II Midwest Region Player of the Year each of the past two seasons at Ohio Dominican, where he usually played first base. He also was Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year and second-team All-American in 2017 and Great Midwest Athletic Conference Player of the Year this season.

Childers batted .407 with 13 home runs and 20 doubles this season as ODU went 36-17 and was ranked as high as 15th in the nation in Division II. In 195 career games with ODU, he batted .375 with 35 home runs, 52 doubles, 13 triples and 170 RBI. His .451 batting average as a junior ranked first nationally among all Division II players.

Childers expected to travel to the Tigers' spring training facility in Lakeland, Florida, last weekend to undergo a physical and sign a contract. He said he could begin play with the Connecticut Tigers, Detroit's Short Season A affiliate, as soon as this week.

For North coach Tim Thomas, the news brought back memories of when he was drafted in the 25th round by the Cleveland Indians in 1990.

"My message to him was hard work got you in and now you'll get paid for it," said Thomas, who played parts of two seasons in the Indians' system.

"You might be the best player on your Little League team, high school team, club team or your college team, and then once you (are drafted), you'll look around and see there are so many great players. I thought I was good, and then I looked around and saw there was always somebody a little faster than me, a little stronger than me. All you can do is work your hardest to get to the next level. That's what he's been able to do."

Childers had hoped to be drafted last year but was not, and played out the summer with the Albany Dutchmen of the wooden-bat Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. In two summers with the Dutchmen, he batted .303 with 82 hits, seven home runs and 58 RBI in 80 games.

In 2016, Childers led Albany in home runs (3) and RBI (31) and was second on the team in batting average (.321) and hits (53).

"I think (playing for the Dutchmen) is a huge reason I got drafted," Childers said.

"I had some growing pains and a lot of struggles. It was a learning process. I was a Division II guy playing with guys from the (Southeastern Conference) and lots of other big schools. I had to work that much harder because of it."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave