This week is high school graduation for a lot of kids. At my daughter's school, a couple of students have a lot more to celebrate than simply getting their high school diplomas. They're headed to the Major League. What must be every kid's dream of being a professional baseball player is coming true for two local 17-year-olds.
Teammates Max Fried and Lucas Giolito, both pitchers at Harvard-Westlake in Studio City, were selected in the first round Major League Baseball's draft on Monday. They were chosen seventh and 16th overall by the San Diego Padres and Washington Nationals, respectively. Wow. Two first round draft picks from the same small prep school. That's pretty cool.
Now, my daughter and her friends are no slackers. But when they take off their caps and gowns they won't be cashing multi-million dollar signing bonuses (oh well). The fact is, there are no comparable opportunities for girls. Even if they wanted to play a professional sport, starting salaries for women are in the mid five figures and there are no long-term contracts or life-changing signing bonuses.
The LA Times suggests the Padres will likely spend about $3 million to sign Fried. That's a nice graduation present. While I don't know either Fried or Giolito personally, I've seen them play and have been following the hype all season. By all accounts they're both great guys who played Little League at the neighborhood park - coached by Dads who saw something special and dreamed their sons would grow up to be major league ballplayers. A decade later, that dream is a reality for two families (nice Father's Day present too!).
Fried, who's Jewish, considers Dodgers Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax his baseball hero. He wears Koufax's No. 32 and throws a curveball patterned after Koufax.
"It's just something I've been wanting to do since I was 5 years old," he told the LA TImes. "Ever since my first Dodger game, I've wanted to play professional baseball. Now that the opportunity is here, it's something I'm going to embrace and really enjoy."
A year ago at this time, most assumed Giolito would go first in the draft. During the 2011 season the high school junior recorded 78 strikeouts in 70.1 innings pitched. At the start of this varsity season Giolito hit 100 miles per hour on the radar gun but an elbow injury a couple games later took him out of contention.
Rather than get pissed off like a lot of young guys might, Giolito stayed and rooted for his team while working hard to rehab his arm. Once back to form, the young pitcher should be a real asset to the Nats. According to MLB Draft Insider, he has multiple pitches in his arsenal and scores high with his fastball, curveball and change-up.
Meanwhile, Fried, an athletic southpaw, was considered a top high school pitcher but not in the same league as Giolito. When their career trajectories intersected, the teammates remained best friends and cheered each other on. Fried, joined by friends and family, gathered at local restaurant last night where he instantly became a celebrity.
These two guys began their senior years as Wolverines and will graduate Friday as Major League ball players. It will be fun to see them walk across the stage - boys to men - and begin the next chapter of their lives.
The Padres and Nationals have until 2 p.m. PDT on July 13 to sign prospects and both Fried and Giolito are waiting to see how negotiations play out. If they're not happy with the offers, both have also committed to play for UCLA - where they can continue to be teammates for four more years.
Good luck to both young men - and all the students graduating this week!
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