SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) — Gavin Cecchini went to New York for a pre-draft workout and wound up a witness to one of the greatest nights in Mets history.
The high school shortstop from Louisiana, drafted No. 12 overall by the Mets on Monday night, worked out for the team Friday at Citi Field. Later that night, he watched from a suite at the ballpark as Johan Santana pitched the franchise’s first no-hitter.
“It was unbelievable,” Cecchini said on a conference call. “The place was rocking. It really was an awesome thing.”
Mets fans waited 51 seasons to see their team toss a no-hitter, and only 27,069 were in the stands for Santana’s gem.
This charmed kid shows up from the Bayou and hits a home run on his first swing.
Cecchini stayed in the area and attended the draft Monday at MLB Network studios. He said a friend he brought to the game Friday told a Mets scout they should pick Cecchini because he must be good luck.
That’s exactly what the team did, and by Monday evening, Cecchini was wearing a Mets cap and jersey. After the selection, he received a congratulatory phone call from star third baseman David Wright, who chatted with Cecchini for about 15 minutes Friday at Citi Field.
“It seemed like we were best friends,” Cecchini said. “They took me in and treated me like I was already drafted by the Mets.”
Cecchini said he had been to New York once before, when he played in the Little League World Series a few hours away in Williamsport, Pa. He comes from a baseball family — his father and mother coached him at Barbe High School and his older brother, Garin, is in the Red Sox system after Boston drafted him in the fourth round two years ago.
The younger Cecchini said having an older brother who was drafted put pressure on him to be just as good, but he knew how to handle it.
“I knew that I’d be on the big stage myself one day,” he said, comparing his hard-nosed style to that of Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. “I’m not going to take one pitch off.”
ISLAND DREAMS: Commissioner Bud Selig was thrilled to see Houston select 17-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa with the top pick in the draft.
Correa played at the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, and Major League Baseball is always looking to grow the game and foster talent outside the 50 states.
“Wonderful. It really is. It’s everything we’re trying to accomplish, in a lot of ways,” Selig said. “So I’m very pleased. Very pleased.”
Before the Astros tabbed Correa, the highest-drafted player out of Puerto Rico was catcher Ramon Castro, selected 17th overall by Houston in 1994. The island has produced plenty of major league stars, from Roberto Clemente to Carlos Delgado and Juan Gonzalez, many of whom signed as free agents.
Ivan Rodriguez, the star catcher from Puerto Rico who recently retired, was at the draft representing the Texas Rangers. He acknowledged that the level of baseball back home has dropped off lately, but said there’s still plenty of talent to mine.
“We need to keep working with them. So, I think it’s a good start,” Rodriguez said. “It’s still there. It needs some more support.”
Rodriguez is eager to help. He noted the need for more institutions like Carlos Beltran’s academy and the one Correa attended, which combines school with baseball.
“They really have some talent. So we’ve got to go there and look for it,” Rodriguez said. “Baseball is doing a lot better. … Things like today with Correa open a lot of doors for us.”
In the meantime, Rodriguez has given advice to Correa.
“I think, right now, he’s at the beginning of a lot of good things for him,” Rodriguez said. “He has the talent to be in the major leagues pretty soon. It’s all on him.”
BACK-TO-BACK BREWERS: Milwaukee had consecutive picks at the end of the first round, and might have found players to someday replace Prince Fielder’s big bat.
With the 27th overall selection — as compensation for losing Fielder as a free agent to Detroit — the Brewers took slugging Washington high school catcher Clint Coulter. They drafted Georgia Southern outfielder Victor Roache with the next pick, taking a player who led Division I with 30 home runs as a sophomore before missing most of this season with a broken left wrist.
The Brewers also had the 38th selection, a compensatory pick also awarded after Fielder left, and took another slugger in Cal Poly outfielder Mitch Haniger, the Big West Conference player of the year.
Milwaukee was one of four teams with multiple picks in the first round.
Toronto took Mississippi high school outfielder D.J. Davis with the 17th selection. Duke fireballing righty Marcus Stroman went at No. 22 — the pick the Blue Jays got for not signing Massachusetts high school righty Tyler Beede, their first-rounder last year.
St. Louis drafted Texas A&M righty Michael Wacha at No. 19, awarded to the Cardinals when Albert Pujols signed with the Angels. They took Florida State outfielder James Ramsey four picks later.
Boston, still looking for a steady shortstop since trading Nomar Garciaparra in 2004, took Arizona State’s Deven Marrero. With the final pick of the opening round, No. 31 (awarded for losing Jonathan Papelbon to Philadelphia), the Red Sox drafted University of Florida left-hander Brian Johnson, who also serves as the top-ranked Gators’ designated hitter.
FAMILIAR FACES: Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins was among the contingent of former big league players who represented teams at the draft.
After Commissioner Bud Selig announced first-round picks, the team representatives went to the podium for the compensation round, including Jenkins for the Chicago Cubs’ two selections.
Among those announcing those picks were: Tony Oliva (Twins), Dwight Evans (Red Sox), Mookie Wilson (Mets), Ivan Rodriguez (Rangers), Kent Tekulve (Pirates) and Don Money (Brewers).
With his team enjoying an off day, Yankees ace CC Sabathia was on hand with his 8-year-old son, dressed smartly in a suit, to announce New York’s first-round pick: Oklahoma high school righty Ty Hensley.
“CC wanted to be here — really wanted to be here,” Selig said. “You love when you have people that show that kind of interest. So here you have one of the great stars of our game who cares enough so that he’s here to help me announce the Yankees’ pick.”
WHAT A CATCH: When it was finally arranged for both Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik and scouting director Tom McNamara to see Florida’s Mike Zunino catch in person, their plans were nearly derailed by Zunino catching all 16 innings of a 3-2 win over Georgia the night before.
The Mariners’ brain trust should not have worried. Without any question, Zunino was back in there despite playing nearly five hours the night before.
“When he signed at Florida, we tracked him and we watched him for three years,” McNamara said. “He doesn’t jump out and wow you like some other players, but what you get at the end of the day is a steady, hard-nosed, tough kid who has power and can really catch.”
Considered the top college position player available, Zunino was picked third overall by the Mariners. He is the first Florida player taken in the first round since Milwaukee grabbed Matt LaPorta with the seventh pick in 2007.
Zunino is a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award for the second straight year and is hitting .316 with 18 homers and 60 RBIs entering the super regionals.
SILENT CARDINAL: Stanford righty Mark Appel was considered by many as the likely No. 1 overall pick to Houston.
After the Astros chose to take Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa instead, Appel slid down to Pittsburgh at No. 8. He’s the latest big arm the Pirates have selected after drafting Gerrit Cole with the No. 1 pick last year and Jameson Taillon second overall in 2010.
Appel, 10-1 with a 2.27 ERA, struck out 11 in a dominant four-hitter in a 9-1 win over Fresno State last Friday.
He was unavailable to the media following the selection, saying in an email: “I’m currently concentrating on winning a national championship and finishing my academic endeavors at Stanford. I will address the possibility of a professional career in due time.”
AROUND THE HORN: A total of 17 high school players were chosen in the first round, including the first two picks — Carlos Correa (Houston) and Byron Buxton (Minnesota) — and 14 from colleges. … The state of Florida had seven players selected in the first round, while California had four and Texas and Georgia had three each. … Thirteen pitchers, including 10 right-handers, were taken in the opening round, the most of all positions. There were nine outfielders, five shortstops, three catchers and one third baseman — Clemson’s Richie Shaffer (Tampa Bay, No. 25). For the first time since 2007, no second basemen were taken. … Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) High School pitchers Max Fried (San Diego, No. 7) and Lucas Giolito (Washington, No. 16) were the seventh pair of high school teammates to be selected in the first round in the same year. The last duo was Mike Moustakas (Kansas City, No. 2) and Matt Dominguez (Florida, No. 12) out of Chatsworth High in California in 2007. Two pairs of college teammates also were selected: Florida’s Mike Zunino (Seattle, No. 3) and Brian Johnson (Boston, No. 31), and Texas A&M’s Tyler Naquin (Cleveland, No. 15) and Michael Wacha (St. Louis, No. 19).
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