Miami Marlins

With 2019 MLB Draft approaching, Miami Marlins reminisce on their draft days

The three-day 2019 MLB Draft begins on Monday. By the time it is over, more than 1,200 high school and college baseball players will hear their name called and have the opportunity to begin their professional baseball career.

It’s a moment in time not lost on current members of the Miami Marlins who went through the process.

Here is what a few Marlins remember about their draft day, in their own words.

Manager Don Mattingly: ‘It wasn’t the same as it is now’

The New York Yankees drafted Mattingly in the 19th round of the 1979 MLB Draft out of Reitz Memorial High School in Evansille, Indiana. Hit pure hitting was undeniable at the prep level, a facet of his game that remained constant as he progress throughout his professional career. Mattingly made his MLB debut on Sept. 8, 1982, and played 13 full seasons with the Yankees, putting together a career .307 batting average with 2,153 hits, 1,099 RBI and 222 home runs. He was a six-time All-Star, a nine-time Golden Glove recipient and a three-time Silver Slugger.

“It wasn’t the same as it is now. It didn’t have the attention publicly on it. The Internet wasn’t really there yet. I had no idea where I was going. There were no workouts or tryouts or going to games or anything like that, but I was looking forward to it for sure. I knew I wanted to go. I don’t think my dad was in that boat, but I was looking forward to it. And honestly, I was disappointed where I came out. I had tons of success, but looking back on it, you understand why. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t throw. I didn’t have any power. At that point, I didn’t. That’s the truth. And so you look back and go ‘You know what, I shouldn’t have been a pick that caught anybody’s attention.’

“I knew I could hit. I hit from little league on and had success everywhere I went. I never really got overpowered by anybody. At that point, you figure you can do everything ... even though I couldn’t.”

Sergio Romo: A ‘foot in the door’

Romo, a Brawley, California, native born in a family of Los Angeles Dodgers fans, was selected in the 28th round of the 2005 MLB Draft out of Mesa State College in Colorado. Romo was at his godfather’s house on draft day. After calling his father, Frank, to tell him the news, Romo then made a call to his grandfather, Evaristo. It’s a phone call he won’t forget.

“I tell him ‘Hey Grandpa, I got drafted.’ He says ‘Oh. That’s great. I’m proud of you. Foot in the door. Foot in the door. Foot in the door.’ He was being a supportive grandfather. We hang up and then literally 20 seconds later the phone rings again. I pick up, and my grandpa says ‘You didn’t tell me what team drafted you.’ I said ‘Oh yeah?’ He got quiet. ‘Oh no. Tell me it’s anybody but the Giants.’ I laughed a little and said ‘Oh, well that’s the thing grandpa, I’m getting my foot in the door.’ I pretty much just tried to repeat everything that he had told me maybe five minutes before that. The cool part is I didn’t convert him into a Giants fan, but I got him to wear a hat and a jersey for the right reasons.“

Romo won three World Series titles with the Giants and is in the middle of his 12th year at the MLB level, his first with the Marlins.

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Curtis Granderson: No expectations

Granderson was at home during the summer of 2002, fresh off a breakout junior year at University of Illinois at Chicago, as the draft began. He and a friend were trying to follow the draft tracker online but had little success. The AOL dial-up connection on Granderson’s home computer froze after the first pick. By the time it refreshed and began loading picks, the Detroit Tigers — a team he spoke to three days before the draft after getting his wisdom teeth removed had already selected Granderson with the 80th overall pick in the third round. Seventeen years later, Granderson is still playing. The 38-year-old made his MLB debut on Sept. 13, 2004, is a three-time All-Star and is now a first-year member of the Miami Marlins serving as a veteran presence and platoon starter for a young rebuilding team

“I had no idea where I was going to go. I heard as high as a potential second rounder to top-10 rounds. I was a late bloomer. I was at a smaller college. I played well my sophomore summer going into my junior year and played well my junior year. But the whole big thing on me was ‘Could he have done what he did offensively if he went to a bigger school?’ So I was just waiting, but I was actually set to go back to school. I already had my classes registered. I had my dorm picked. And then it ended up happening a lot higher than I expected. Third round, 80th pick. My college coach said ‘You’ve got to go.’ I said ‘All right. Here we go.’

“I never looked at [the draft] like this is bound to happen. It would have been cool if it did, but I wasn’t set on it happening. That wasn’t where I placed all my money. Because of not having those expectations, I think it helped me. I wasn’t dead set on it. I wasn’t disappointed if I didn’t go here. I had no idea who might be interested. In a unscripted way, it worked out very well [with the Tigers drafting me] because it’s not how you would have wanted it to happen. That’s what helped me.”

Brian Anderson: ‘That’s the journey’

Anderson just finished his junior season at the University of Arkansas when the Marlins selected him with the 76th overall pick of the 2014 MLB Draft. He is one of five players on the Marlins’ active roster that the team drafted, along with Adam Conley, JT Riddle, Austin Dean and Austin Brice.

“I really enjoyed playing in college. I really enjoyed my teammates, coaches there. So there was a little bit of sadness knowing that I might be leaving them. At the same time, it’s very exciting. Not knowing where you’re going to and you’re going to meet new teammates and you’re going to have new experiences. Ultimately, this is most of these guys’ dreams is to play in the big leagues. So just getting started on that journey, it’s more exciting than anything.”

Anderson made his Major League debut on Sept. 1, 2017, and has been a regular in the starting lineup over the last two years. He finished fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting last season.

“It feels like forever ago now. Grinding through just a couple years in the minor leagues and then ultimately being up here, it seems like forever ago that I was looking at getting drafted. But that’s the journey and I’m excited for all these guys that they get to take that journey now and experience all of it.”

Adam Conley: ‘I’m still here’

Conley thought he was going to be selected by the Tampa Bay Rays as the 2011 draft unfolded. Based on odds alone, that was a safe assumption for a top prospect that year considering the Rays had 10 of the first 60 picks. The Washington state native had to wait until the Marlins took him at pick 72, though, to realize his professional baseball dream. His journey has seen him make his MLB debut in 2015, move into a bullpen role last season and remain a rare constant in a franchise that has undergone constant change during his eight years in the organization.

“I don’t know about now, but my recollections is that around that time, there were a lot of players being drafted by the Marlins who didn’t know they were going to be drafted by the Marlins. Sometimes, you have a sense. People are calling or you’re seeing particular guys around a lot. Gabe Sandy, the [Marlins] area scout in the northwest who was around my games, was a guy who I have met and known but the reason I thought the Rays was that because of all their picks, I thought that the bonus might be lower and I might be able to sneak into the first round and be one of their picks.

“I remember the second day of the draft coming and being at my dad’s house and watching the tracker online. I’m thinking about where I’m going to live and where I’m going to move. I just got engaged and was trying to figure out where my life was going to start. It was a unique time for me, just waiting for that news to break. And then we find out it’s going to be South Florida, really as far away from home as I could possibly get.

“I love it. Growing up, I really kind of hung on to that culture of baseball that I grew up watching. As far as my views of the game, I have an old-school mentality of the game. Back then, players played for the same team a lot of times for their whole career. For me to be here, for all this time has been a pleasure. It’s where my home is now. It’s where my church is now. It’s where my friends are now. It’s where my life is. ... I’ve been through a lot of changes, but I’m still here.”

Austin Dean: ‘A dream come true’

The Marlins selected Dean in the fourth round of the 2012 MLB draft out of Klein Collins High School in Spring, Texas. The outfielder spent six-and-a-half seasons in the minors before getting called up in September 2018 when rosters expanded. He is on his second stint with the major league team now.

“I had no chance of going in the first round, so I had already put that in my head. The biggest thing I did, my dad was on the phone. He was acting as my agent at the time, so he was getting the phone calls from the area scouts and everything like that. It was the Day 2 process, so we were just sitting there, getting phone calls left and right, sitting there watching the draft tracker with Jonathan Mayo and all those guys. Got selected in the fourth round. It was kind of a cool experience to do it with my dad and mom.

“This whole experience of being up in the big leagues now is a dream come true. You only get drafted once, so for anyone that’s doing it, just enjoy the moment, savor it and let it last.”

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Jordan McPherson covers the Miami Marlins and high school sports for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and covered the Gators athletic program for five years before joining the Herald staff in December 2017.