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Local baseball community celebrates draft day success stories

Corona del Mar's Chazz Martinez pitches against Beckman in a Pacific Coast League game on April 6, 2018.
Corona del Mar’s Chazz Martinez pitches against Beckman in a Pacific Coast League game on April 6, 2018.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

In the past two years, the Major League Baseball draft has been downsized to 20 rounds, but local talents continue to have their names called.

Several local baseball products were selected in the draft last week, a reward for the determination to push through adversity and striving to make themselves more well-rounded assets.

Orange Coast College baseball coach Nate Johnson expressed joy to hear that former Pirates Murphy Stehly and Chazz Martinez were picked in the draft, while another alumnus of the program refused to give up on his dream after not being taken.

Stehly, a key contributor for OCC’s state championship team in 2019, was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 10th round (291st overall) as a third baseman out of the University of Texas.

He hit .367 with 19 home runs, 23 doubles and 61 runs batted in for the Longhorns as a redshirt senior.

“For a kid like Murphy Stehly, he was first-team all-Orange Empire Conference here during his time in 2019 — won a state championship,” Johnson said. “Doesn’t get drafted, gets a scholarship to Texas, didn’t really play there the first two years, and then this year, just has an unbelievable season. He’s earned everything that he’s gotten for himself.

“Just a hard worker, so being able to see his name called in that 10th round was definitely super deserving for him and super exciting for him.”

Martinez, a left-handed pitcher who graduated from Corona del Mar High in 2018, started his college career at UC Santa Barbara before returning home to OCC and ultimately winding up at Oklahoma, where he produced a 4-3 record with a 5.32 earned-run average in 64 1/3 innings. He struck out a season-high 14 batters over seven shutout innings against Northwestern State on Feb. 27.

The Kansas City Royals selected Martinez in the 17th round (505th). First baseman Nick Pratto, a standout from Huntington Beach, recently debuted for the Royals on July 14 and hit the first home run of his career three days later at Toronto.

Johnson said he received a phone call from David Morgan updating him that he had signed a free agent deal with the San Diego Padres following the draft. Morgan has bounced around the diamond. He played the left side of the infield for OCC, then moved to the outfield and pitched at Hope International.

“It’s hard enough to be one of the best nine guys at a Division I program,” Johnson said. “It’s hard enough to be one of the best nine guys in our program. Obviously, you get to the next level, it gets even harder to be one of the best nine guys and crack the lineup every single day, so the more positions you’re able to play, the better position you put yourself in to get into that lineup.”

Of the locals chosen in the draft, a few had the thrill of playing in the College World Series. Brett Barrera, a 2019 graduate of Huntington Beach who went on to play at Stanford, was among them.

The 6-foot-1, 217-pound shortstop was taken in the eighth round (250th) by the New York Yankees. Barrera posted a batting average of .351 with 19 doubles, three triples, 11 home runs and 53 RBIs in his junior season.

Stehly and Martinez also made appearances on college baseball’s grandest stage in Omaha, Neb.

Barrera said he was building a New York City architecture LEGO set with his girlfriend when he received a call informing him that he was about to be selected by the Yankees, the team he grew up rooting for.

“It was a weird feeling finding out that I got a scholarship from Stanford back in high school,” Barrera said. “It was almost a similar, ‘Wow,’ like my dream team, because I grew up loving the Yankees. They were my favorite team.

“Once I found out they drafted me, it was kind of like I got two dreams to come true in one life already.”

UC Irvine had three players selected in the draft: outfielder Nathan Church (St. Louis Cardinals, 11th round, 337th), right-handed pitcher Troy Taylor (Seattle Mariners, 12th round, 366th), and an incoming recruit in right-handed pitcher Riley Kelly (Arizona Diamondbacks, 20th round, 588th).

Caleb Ricketts, a Newport Beach native who played at Orange Lutheran and then the University of San Diego, was selected as a catcher in the seventh round (212th) by the Philadelphia Phillies.

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