It's the moment every young ballplayer dreams of -- hearing his name called by a Major League club on Draft Day, the culmination of years of hard work and the first step toward the big leagues.But when it came time for Jeremy Ydens' moment, he wasn't around to hear it.
It's the moment every young ballplayer dreams of -- hearing his name called by a Major League club on Draft Day, the culmination of years of hard work and the first step toward the big leagues.
But when it came time for Jeremy Ydens' moment, he wasn't around to hear it. The Northern California prep prospect snuck into the 2016 Draft as the very last pick, going No. 1,216 overall to the St. Louis Cardinals.
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Ydens, an outfielder from St. Francis High School in Mountain View, Calif., knew being drafted in the later rounds was a possibility, but he's in the midst of playing summer ball in the West Coast League for the Wenatchee (Wash.) AppleSox. When his name was announced as the final pick on Saturday -- making him the 18th annual Don't Count Him Out Award recipient from MLB.com -- he was hitting off the tee in the batting cages at Paul Thomas Sr. Field.
Ydens didn't hear the news until he returned to his locker a few hours before his team took the field against the Corvallis Knights to find his phone filled with texts from friends and family.
"It was pretty exciting," Ydens said. "Even though mine was the very last pick, I couldn't be happier. I've been working really hard and I'm so grateful for the opportunity that the Cardinals gave me."
Despite the Cards' interest, Ydens intends to honor his commitment to UCLA and will attend the school this fall.
Players selected in last round
"For me, it's important to mature physically and mentally," he said. "Coming out of high school, I thought it was important to get that college experience, that first time living on your own, figuring out how to be responsible and take care of yourself, as well as get stronger.
"I feel like I need to continue to get stronger and get better as a baseball player, and going to UCLA, I can definitely do that."
• Cardinals' 2016 Draft picks
Ydens, who turns 19 next month, enjoyed a stellar senior season at St. Francis, batting .453/.550/.679 (48-for-106) with 17 extra-base hits (11 doubles, five triples, one homer) and 21 stolen bases. He helped his team to a second straight Central Coast Section Open Division Championship.
Ydens is now focused on filling out his tall, lanky frame with more muscle. His speed in the outfield and on the basepaths is a touted feature of his game, but he hopes that with some added strength, he'll improve the power of his bat.
With a successful stint at the collegiate ranks, Ydens' Draft stock could only improve. There's certainly precedent. UCLA has long been a consistent pipeline for professional sports. Just in this MLB Draft alone, five current Bruins players were selected in addition to six commits, including No. 1 overall selection Mickey Moniak, whom Ydens knows from playing against him and from their official campus visit at UCLA.
"To have your name called and drafted is such an honor," Ydens said. "But after talking to my family, I know it's the right decision [to go to college]. I'm happy with my decision, and I'm just excited for the season and to continue to get better as a baseball player."
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com.