Jesus Luzardo and Colton Welker met a decade ago — two little stars of the Parkland Pokers.
Their fielding positions have completely switched since they met at age 8, but on Friday the two state champions from Douglas High realized their childhood dreams by getting drafted by Major League Baseball organizations.
Luzardo, a left-hander who had elbow surgery 11 weeks ago, was the first to go. He was a third-round pick of the Washington Nationals, selection No. 94.
“It was a great feeling,” said Luzardo, who was told by his advisor, Nate Heisler, that he was about to get picked. “But I was not 100 percent until I heard my name called [on MLB’s live draft coverage].
“The first two people I hugged were my parents. My mom started crying. Emotions were running high. It was exciting and stress relieving.”
Welker, a 6-2, 205-pound shortstop who lives just a mile from Luzardo, was selected only 16 picks after his buddy. The Colorado Rockies picked Welker in the fourth round with the purpose of playing him at third base.
“It was overwhelming — a flow of chills through my body,” Welker said of his emotions. “It was humbling — one of the best experiences of my life.”
Both players told the Miami Herald on Friday that they had agreed to sign with their pro organizations, turning down another appealing option — playing for the University of Miami.
Thus ends a special decade of Welker and Luzardo as teammates.
With the Parkland Pokers, their first travel team, Luzardo was a hitter and Welker pitched — the opposite of how things have worked out since.
“Jesus was our leadoff hitter,” Welker said. “He was fast. He can still stroke to this day — great athlete.”
Luzardo had praise for Welker, too.
“Colton was one of the nastiest pitchers I ever saw at [age 8],” Luzardo said. “He was the man back then. And he’s still the man.”
The Rockies certainly agree with that analysis on Welker, and Douglas coach Todd Fitz-Gerald is excited to see what his star infielder can accomplish.
Colorado plays at Coors Field, a notorious hitters’ park in the high altitude of Denver.
“Colton is a line-drive hitter, but he has some lift power,” Fitz-Gerald said. “I think he will have fun in that park. The ball flies out of Colorado.”
Welker, whose advisor is former Miami Hurricanes infielder Roger Tomas, also landed with a good organization, Fitz-Gerald said.
Since Luzardo is still recovering, he and Fitz-Gerald are excited he is going to a club that helped Stephen Strasburg have major success after Tommy John surgery.
“The Nationals do a great job monitoring their pitchers,” Fitz-Gerald said.
Among other local players drafted:
▪ FAU shortstop C.J. Chatham, who played high school ball at Plantation American Heritage, was drafted in the second round by the Boston Red Sox.
Chatham, who said he has agreed to terms with the Red Sox, said he had a choice to be drafted by Boston or the Toronto Blue Jays and one other team. He chose the Red Sox because of Boston’s status as an elite franchise.
“There were a couple of teams that were picking around the same time, and the money was about the same,” Chatham said. “I chose the Red Sox.”
▪ Boston also chose right-hander Shaun Anderson of the Florida Gators. Anderson, pick No. 88 (third round), was a teammate of Chatham’s at American Heritage. Now they’ll be together again.
▪ Monsignor Pace right-hander Chris Rodriguez was a fourth-round pick of the Angels.
▪ Former Miami Sunset shortstop Michael Paez, now with Coastal Carolina, was drafted in the fourth round by the Mets. He was selected four picks after Rodriguez.
▪ Miami Dade College shortstop Santiago Espinal was selected in the 10th round by the Red Sox.