Like many young men who have fallen in love with America's grand old game, Chris Conran's dream is to someday get an opportunity to play professional baseball.

He realizes now that it might not ever happen, but the dream never dies.

It lives on forever in the hearts of ballplayers like Conran, a pitcher for Utah Valley University. And over the next three days, many of those young men across America will get a chance to make that dream come true when Major League Baseball stages its annual amateur player draft.

"I started watching it when I was in high school," Conran said of the MLB draft, which begins Thursday evening and runs through Saturday. "I was told by one of my high school coaches I might get my name called someday. And I thought it would be kinda cool to get my name called."

Conran, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound southpaw, moved to Utah from St. Louis in time to play his senior season of baseball at Brighton High School. He just finished up his sophomore year at Utah Valley, where tendinitis in his throwing shoulder hampered his ability to pitch this season.

And though he won't hear his own name called by a Major League team this weekend, Conran has gotten to know many of the state's top collegiate and high school players who may very well receive that coveted opportunity over the next three days.

"For me, now that I know a lot of guys in Utah, having played either with them or against them over the last few years, I'm excited to see them get drafted and get that opportunity that I've been thinking about for so long," Conran said.

Conran figures that BYU's Jacob Hannemann, a 6-1, 195-pound outfielder who just finished up his freshman season, has the best chance of being selected in this year's draft among the state's collegiate and prep standouts.

Hannemann, who came to BYU to play football after a stellar prep career at Lone Peak, was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 48th round of the 2010 MLB draft, but chose to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints instead.

His stock has only risen since then, as he was named the West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year and earned first team all-conference honors this year. In WCC play, he batted a robust .380 with 15 extra-base hits, 26 runs scored and seven stolen bases, and he offers a rare combination of speed, power and hitting ability.

Conran, who has taken a keen interest in this year's draft prospects because of his close association with so many of the local players who are likely on major league teams' radars, says Hannemann's BYU teammate, power-hitting outfielder Jaycob Brugman, might also go in the early rounds after being selected in the 39th round by the New York Yankees as a high school senior.

Two players with plenty of major league experience in their genes, Taylor and JC Snyder, might also get an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of their father, former BYU All-American Cory Snyder, who spent eight seasons in the big leagues and was a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic silver medal-winning team.

Taylor Snyder just finished up his high school career at Salem Hills, where he helped lead the Skyhawks to the school's first state championship in baseball. JC Snyder completed his sophomore season at Salt Lake Community College and has signed to play next year at BYU — unless, of course, the majors come calling.

Another SLCC player who's headed for BYU, pitcher Michael Springer, has a fastball that's been clocked at 96 mph — not bad for a guy who had Tommy John surgery while still in high school — and could get his name called this weekend, too.

Among the state's top high school players who recently graduated, Bingham outfielder Brennon Lund, who helped lead the Miners to another in a long line of state championships, is ranked high on Conran's list, as is tall and talented right-handed pitcher Tanner Draper, who helped lead Riverton to a region title and has signed to play for Oregon State's strong baseball program.

Former Spanish Fork High School star Brady Corless, who enjoyed a stellar freshman season at SLCC, is another young up-and-comer who could get the MLB call this weekend along, with former Bingham High star Connor Williams, who may decide to forgo baseball to serve an LDS mission.

EMAIL: rhollis@desnews.com