Although he had to wait a little longer than he was hoping Thursday night, Alex Verdugo can finally call himself a professional baseball player.
The Sahuaro graduate, who turned 18 less than a month ago, was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an outfielder — not a pitcher — with the 62nd pick overall in the first day of the MLB draft. Tommy Lasorda, the club’s former longtime manager, announced the second-round selection for the team on the live broadcast on MLB Network.
“It was awesome; just to hear my name was awesome,” said Verdugo, a southpaw. “I’m just really excited that I got called on the first day. I’m going to prove that, even though I was picked where I was, I’m one of the best.”
Verdugo said he will sign with the organization and opt out of his scholarship to play for Arizona State.
“Something I’ve dreamed about is to be in the major leagues,” Verdugo said. “Just to know that I’m on my way there, and I’m taking the right steps forward to get there just drives me insane thinking about it.”
The selection by Los Angeles came as somewhat of a surprise: The Dodgers were not one the four teams Verdugo worked out with since graduating May 22.
Verdugo attended workouts for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals and Miami Marlins and said earlier this week that all four workouts went “really well.” He also said it’d be a dream to play for the Diamondbacks, for whom he worked out May 28 at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, but they passed on Verdugo for two pitchers before the Dodgers took him.
“I got a lot of family that loves the Dodgers,” Verdugo said. “I was probably a lot more of a Diamondbacks fan, but now I’m going to be a Dodger.
Verdugo was even caught by surprise when his mother, Shelly, ran into the room and said the Dodgers were on the phone. He thought the teams most likely to draft him were the Diamondbacks, Royals or Cleveland Indians, who had a combined 10 picks before Verdugo’s name was called later than anticipated.
“It was kind of a bittersweet moment,” Verdugo said. “It was bitter because I dropped down that low, but it was sweet that I got drafted. I can’t be any happier honestly.”
Though several teams were mostly interested in Verdugo for his pitching abilities, the Dodgers want him for his bat. Over the last two seasons with the Cougars, he batted .508 with 72 RBIs, 27 doubles, 10 home runs and nine triples. He’s looking forward to being an everyday hitter now but won’t rule out pitching in the future.
“I think my hitting is going to be good enough, but if it’s not, my pitching is always right there,” Verdugo said. “If I make it in the big leagues as a hitter maybe one day, I can just go in there and throw and inning or two off the mound to see if I still got it.”