Marco Gonzales’ modest baseball cap collection includes the St. Louis Cardinals.
On Thursday, the Cardinals included Gonzales in their collection.
The Cardinals selected Gonzales in the first round, with the 19th selection overall, during the first day of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
The left-handed junior pitcher became the highest draft selection in Gonzaga history under the current format. Clayton Mortensen was drafted 36th overall in 2007, also by St. Louis.
“The Cardinals are a great organization known for their pitching prowess,” said Gonzales, a native of Fort Collins, Colo. “Their farm system is incredible, so I was hoping that they were one of the teams that were seriously considering me.”
Gonzales’ agent, Randy Rowley, called to warn him when the selection was imminent. Gonzales sent his younger brother Alex to retrieve the cap.
“He hid it under his shirt and whipped it out right when they called my name,” Gonzales said. “It was kind of dramatic, but it was cool, man.”
Gonzales said he hopes to sign within two weeks and begin his professional career. St. Louis’ short-season Class A team is the State College (Penn.) Spikes of the New York-Penn League.
The Cardinals hadn’t drafted a left-handed pitcher in the first round since 1944, but Thursday they took two. St. Louis also tabbed Rob Kaminsky of St. Joseph (N.J.) Regional High with the 28th pick.
The Cardinals have a commissioner-assigned bonus of $6.9 million. The suggested slot of the 19th pick is $2,055,800.
“I’m just very honored to get whatever I can,” Gonzales said. “I’d take a plane ticket, honestly, to go play baseball, or bus ticket, actually, so that’s not the issue right now.”
In three seasons with Gonzaga, Gonzales was 26-7 with a 2.34 earned-run average, nine complete games, four shutouts and 278 strikeouts. He also played first base and hit .311 with 69 runs batted in.
Baseball America ranked Gonzales 28th among its top 500 prospects. He features a fastball that ranges between 88-91 mph, but his out pitch is his changeup, which Baseball America called “the best in this year’s class.”
“With Marco, he’s 5-11 or 6-foot, but he can throw all pitches for strikes,” said GU coach Mark Machtolf, who likened Gonzales to Tom Glavine. “I think if you needed a win in a game tomorrow, you’d pick Marco over a lot of those (other drafted guys.)”
Cardinals Senior Vice President/General Manager John Mozeliak called Gonzales “an ideal fit” with St. Louis.
Gonzales helped Rocky Mountain High to four Class 5A baseball titles. He was drafted in the 29th round out of high school by the Colorado Rockies but didn’t sign.
Gonzales’ father, Frank, who played eight seasons in the Detroit Tigers’ organization, is the pitching coach for the Rockies’ Northwest League affiliate, the Tri-City Dust Devils. Frank is showing Marco how to throw a sinker to go with the cutter he’s developed in the last year-plus.
The entire family was on hand to watch the draft with Marco, who was too nervous to sample the buffet served for the event.
“I came in (to Gonzaga) a lone Colorado boy, the only one on the team, and I am leaving with a big Spokane family,” Gonzales said.
“Since he’s walked on campus he’s pitched like he’s been a 15-year veteran in the big leagues,” Machtolf said. “That’s one of his greatest gifts and that’s probably one of the reasons why he’s close to being able to pitch in the big leagues.”