When the Padres selected MacKenzie Gore with their highest Draft choice in eight years, they made it clear his athleticism had played a major factor in their decision. In no uncertain terms, they said, they had drafted "an athlete."The best male high school athlete in the country, as it turns
When the Padres selected MacKenzie Gore with their highest Draft choice in eight years, they made it clear his athleticism had played a major factor in their decision. In no uncertain terms, they said, they had drafted "an athlete."
The best male high school athlete in the country, as it turns out.
In a ceremony in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, Gore was named the Gatorade Male Athlete of the Year. Among the past recipients are LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kevin Love and Matt Barkley. Gore is just the second baseball player to win the award, joining Orioles righty Dylan Bundy, who took home the 2011 edition.
Along with the award, Gore is pictured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, along with sprinter/hurdler Sydney McLaughlin, who took home Female Athlete of the Year honors. He snapped a picture with Aaron Rodgers on Tuesday night and later received a shoutout from the Packers quarterback on Instagram.
"You never expect this," Gore said. "It's just one of those things, where you just take it in."
Gore added that he expects to make his debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League on Monday. He led Whiteville (N.C.) High School to three state championships in four years, and the numbers he posted during his 11-0 senior season were nothing short of amazing. He notched a 0.19 ERA and struck out 158 hitters in 74 1/3 innings, while walking just five.
The Padres drafted Gore at No. 3 overall, "a pretty easy pick," in the words of general manager A.J. Preller at the time. Twelve days later, Gore inked a $6.7 million signing bonus, and he was introduced in a news conference at Petco Park.
Gore has spent the past few weeks working out at the team's facility in Peoria, Ariz., where he says he's already added a few pounds of muscle.
"It's been great," Gore said. "I've clicked with everybody there, and I feel like I'm getting better every day. … I've been getting a little stronger and just getting into the routines they have. Now, it's nice that all I do is focus on pitching. I'm able to make jumps that, when you're playing different positions, you really can't make."
A 6-foot-2 left-hander with a four-pitch mix and a mid-90s fastball, Gore could easily sit atop San Diego's rotation someday. And don't be surprised if he's on the fast track to the big leagues, given his already refined arsenal.
Gore had already earned a 2016-17 Gatorade National Player of the Year honor for baseball, an award that recognizes the nation's most elite high school student-athletes for their athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character. On Tuesday, he was singled out for yet another honor.
"We felt like he was as talented as any left-handed high school pitching prospect that we've seen over the course of the last 10 years," Preller said after the selection.
Gore's high school accolades, which continue to pile up, seem to back that assertion.
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.