Worth the wait
Porcello slips, but is happy to be picked by Tigers
Posted: Friday June 8, 2007 12:47PM; Updated: Friday June 8, 2007 8:03PM
WEST ORANGE, N.J. -- At 4:41 p.m. on Thursday, the waiting finally ended for Rick Porcello.
Seated on a couch in the first-floor den of his family's Chester, N.J. home, the 6-foot-5, 200-pound right-handed pitcher from Seton Hall Prep (West Orange, N.J.) had painstakingly watched 26 teams make their first round selections. Every five minutes MLB commissioner Bud Selig sauntered across the stage in Orlando, Fla., and without fail, he did not announce Gatorade national baseball Player of the Year's name.
Thirteen members of the class of 2007 were picked before him, and there was Porcello, taking it all in with his father, Fred, his mother, Pat, and his brothers Zack and Jake.
"We watched the names on the screen go by as the picks were made, and we knew a lot of them from the different showcases and tournaments over the summer," says Porcello, who is 9-0 with a 1.20 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 64 innings pitched this season and was projected by some draft prognosticators to go as high as No. 2 . "I had an anxious energy in me. You work so hard for a life dream like this and you just want it to happen."
And it did. Just over two and a half hours after the draft began he was finally picked by the Detroit Tigers with the 27th pick. Throughout the day, the family's house phone, Rick's cell phone and his father's cell phone sat on the coffee table in front of them. Family and friends, scouts and baseball people who they had met along the top-flight player summer and fall circuit had called to wish him luck, but when the Tigers made Porcello their first-round selection, no phone rang to inform them. No, the Porcellos were like any other hardball fans being informed by Selig while watching their television set during the first-ever televised MLB draft.
"I was up on my toes and did not know what to expect, but once the word came I thought of the history that the Tigers have as a franchise and how I would like to be a part of that," says Porcello, who began tearing up after watching his mother become overwhelmed with the emotion. "I was a Mets fan, but that all changed today."
About 50 miles north of the Porcello home at Seton Hall Prep, his teammates gathered in the school library to watch their star pitcher's name be called. Prior to the viewing, coach Mike Sheppard Jr. detailed the roller coaster possibilities of the draft and that Rick was no guarantee to go as high as No. 2. Having allowed the team to watch for one hour, from 2-3 p.m., the team departed the library for practice across the pathway without knowing where Porcello would wind up. "We understood that the kids probably wanted to stay and watch, but work had to be done with the state title game on Saturday," says Sheppard, who saw Prep third baseman Eric Duncan get drafted No. 27 in the first round by the New York Yankees in 2003.
It was in that same library where the team gathered to watch the draft that just six months earlier had served as an interview room over the course of two nights in December and January. Twenty-two scouts made the pilgrimage to meet with and inform Porcello, who has signed a letter of intent to attend North Carolina, about what life would be like in the minors. "This whole process has been educational not just about baseball but about lifestyle and making sure that you are ready to make decisions," says Porcello, who many liken to Detroit's 2004 first-round pick, Justin Verlander because of his sinewy frame and 98 mph fastball.
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