CHICAGO -- Most 38th-round Draft picks won't make the Majors. Most 38th-round Draft picks don't have as heartbreaking a story as Matthew Klug, either.Klug, a high school outfielder from Georgia, lost his mother in November 2016 after a 16-year bout with COPD and emphysema. In November 2017, he lost his
CHICAGO -- Most 38th-round Draft picks won't make the Majors. Most 38th-round Draft picks don't have as heartbreaking a story as Matthew Klug, either.
Klug, a high school outfielder from Georgia, lost his mother in November 2016 after a 16-year bout with COPD and emphysema. In November 2017, he lost his father after a seven-year battle with cancer. Additionally, Klug's best childhood friend passed away in November 2015 from an undiscovered brain tumor.
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When the White Sox told Klug they planned on drafting him, he was speechless.
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"My head coach from Brookwood [High School] kept it a secret for about a month, so I'm still in shock," Klug said Wednesday night in a conference call with reporters. "I don't really know what to say or feel, but I'm honored that they would do that for me, and just what I've gone through was what they noticed and wanted to do that for me, it just means everything for me.
Klug said he didn't play a lot this year and had no plans to play in college, but never considered quitting the Brookwood team. He said his parents, especially his father, taught him to stay positive and keep grinding.
"When I seriously had a conversation with myself about it, or even my brother, it just didn't seem like there's no chance I would've done it," Klug said. "Knowing that I was in the dugout staying positive, picking up my teammates, just something that I always stood for, something I know my parents would want me to do.
"If I had just quit this year and gave it up, my parents would be disappointed," he added.
The White Sox discovered Klug when director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler read an article about him and forwarded it to their area scout, Kevin Burrell. Burrell then set the wheels in motion to make sure the White Sox selected Klug in the Draft.
"I text Nick and I said 'Are you thinking the same thing I'm thinking?' and he said, 'Absolutely,'" Burrell said. "This is an opportunity to really reach out to a young man that's gone through a lot. I'm personally honored to just be a part of that process and hopefully bring together some healing for him and for his family, and really just to honor him."
Klug said even though he's an outfielder, he idolized Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman growing up because Freeman went through something similar with his mom. That Freeman could continue to go out every day and perform inspired Klug to do the same.
The whole ordeal has given Klug a new perspective on life, he said.
"It's been the worst two or three years anybody could imagine," Klug said. "It just knocks you down, but both my parents they would have wanted me to get back up and they wouldn't want me to fall and not get back up or let it knock me down. They'd want to see me be as positive as can be and go after everything as hard as I can, and I know they're proud of me.
"It's made me realize how special life truly is and just I want to make my parents proud and make everyone I've lost proud, and hopefully I'm doing a good job of that."
Max Gelman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.