For Jason Groome, a 17-year-old left-hander for Barnegat High School in New Jersey, the next few months hold an enormous amount of promise. Recently named MLB.com's No. 1 Draft prospect for 2016, Groome is likely to instantly transform from a high school student to a professional baseball player after the MLB Draft, which takes place on June 9-11 on MLB.com and MLB Network. The prospect is simultaneously daunting -- and thrilling.
"I'm just taking it day by day," Groome said, "and I can't wait until it gets here."
In a break while volunteering at the Cole Hamels Foundation's kids pitching clinic, Groome shared his thoughts on his exciting present and his promising future, as told to MLB.com's Bryan Horowitz.
In just a few short months, I'm most likely going to head up to the Draft in Secaucus, N.J., and I have a real good shot to be one of the first few picks. How would it feel to hear my name called?
Words can't even say it. But I'm so excited right now.
I've wanted to pitch in the Majors since I first started playing baseball; my goal was always to be in the Hall of Fame. My dad knew I had some talent, and he always told me, no matter what, to just stay humble. I do have that little chip on my shoulder while I'm on the mound, and I need that. But everywhere else, I just try to be myself, and if baseball gets brought up, it's usually other people talking about it.
• Complete 2016 MLB Draft order
It started to sink in that my dream could be a reality during my sophomore year at Barnegat High School, when I was 15. We went all the way to the New Jersey state finals, and I saw a bunch of scouts start to appear behind the plate. It wasn't even so much from colleges, they were pro guys. And I was like, "Wow, I actually might really be this good."
I spent my junior year at IMG Academy in Florida to get bigger and stronger, and that definitely happened -- I gained about 18 pounds. The strength coach, Will Townsley, he challenged me way more than ever before. I like that because it relates to the mound. In the seventh inning, if I'm getting tired, of course I want to know how it feels to push through to the next level.
The main reason I went, though, is that I wanted to really put myself out there. Heading down to Florida and living by myself, going to a new school, I took it as an opportunity to really show people who I am and what I can do. It definitely paid off big time, but I did get a little homesick.
When I decided to return to New Jersey for my senior year, it was mainly to be with my friends and family. I also felt I needed to come back because I felt I can do a lot coming out of Barnegat. You know that saying, "Remember where you came from?" I'm from Barnegat, and that's where I wanted to launch my career.
I can honestly say I made the right decision. My teachers, Principal Nichol and Coach McCoy, they're all happy to have me back. It's close to the beach and there are a lot of rivers, so my friends and I like to go fishing. I want to win a state championship this year, which Barnegat has never done; we came so close my sophomore year, losing in the title game.
• Complete Draft and prospect coverage on MLBPipeline.com
I try to watch as much baseball as I can, mainly the Phillies and the New York teams, since those are the ones we get on television. Though almost everyone in my family is a Yankees fan, my favorite team is actually the Red Sox, because I loved watching Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez. With Pedro, I mainly dug his attitude. When I saw him step on the mound, I just knew he was strictly business. You're in his home now.
I also used to like watching Andy Pettitte and Randy Johnson -- they're both great left-handers, and I always tried to take something from them that I could use to get better. For example, I like having a high leg kick, but my knee would hit my elbow. So I watched how the Big Unit was short and compact in the middle of his body, and that's what I go with now.
I know I have pretty good stuff, and when I talk to scouts, I'll ask if there's any difference between my 94-mph fastball and like, Stephen Strasburg's 94. And they say, "No, it's just a matter of where you put it." Like, if you can locate your pitches, you're going to have a shot; obviously, the fewer mistakes you make, the more successful you're going to be.
When I think about pitching to big league hitters, the guy who comes to mind is Miguel Cabrera. I would watch the Tigers a lot because of Justin Verlander and when they had David Price, and Cabrera is just a powerhouse. I can't picture myself pitching to him right now, but maybe in a few years. It would definitely be crazy, though -- I remember watching him when he first got called up to the Marlins, and I might end up having to try to get him out.
I know MLB.com named me its top Draft prospect, and there's always that little hyped-up feeling thinking I might actually be the No. 1 pick. I'd basically be a hometown kid if I go to the Phillies; I went to a bunch of their games growing up, and I played there my sophomore year for the Carpenter Cup. It would be a true honor, because I'd be doing what I love for a great organization.
My desire to make it comes mainly from knowing struggle and hardship. My dad busted his tail to support my family. I have two older sisters; my one sister went through college, she's a teacher now, and the other is still in school. Then there's me and my 3-year-old twin brothers, and that's a lot of people to support. Knowing that someday I might be able to help make sure my brothers have a good foundation and good schooling ... it's just a dream.
When I was a kid, I never knew I would actually be in this position. It's just so mind-boggling to think it all might be coming true. I think often about putting on a Major League uniform for the first time, the adrenaline rush from being able to do what I love every day. It's so close, I can taste it.