Vinnie St. John Jr. couldn’t make the baseball team at USC last season.
“The coaches told me because I had [solely] become a pitcher that they didn’t think I would be able to play on the collegiate level,” said Vinnie St. John, who joined the Trojans as an outfielder in 2008. “They cut me before my junior year.”
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim must believe the former Corona del Mar High standout can still pitch.
The Angels picked the right-hander in the 45th round on Wednesday, the last day of baseball’s amateur draft. St. John went as the 1,374th overall pick, not bad for someone who plays in the summer for the Santa Barbara Foresters, a club team in the California Collegiate League.
“We never looked at baseball as a lottery ticket for him,” Vinnie St. John Sr. said of his son, who after playing at USC as a freshman and sophomore worked on his arm and concentrated on graduating with his business degree a year early.
“We’re just happy for him and so proud of him that he has a chance to go further.”
Vinnie St. John Jr. wasn’t the first person in his family to know his career wasn’t over after USC.
Irene Jacobs screamed inside her Laguna Beach home when she heard her son’s name called during the draft online. St. John quickly figured out why mom was excited.
The 2007 CdM graduate always believed he had the stuff to pitch in college.
“I felt pretty vindicated,” said St. John, a 6-foot-1, 200-pounder. “I just love baseball and I didn’t want it to stop.”
St. John was one of three local pitchers taken Wednesday. The other two were seniors Kyle Necke and Eric Pettis, both of UC Irvine.
Necke went in the 34th round (1,035th pick) to the Minnesota Twins and Pettis in the following round (1,071st) to the Philadelphia Phillies.
Necke, a right-handed reliever, led the Anteaters with seven saves. He struck out 41 and walked nine batters in 42 innings of work. Necke went 1-4 with a 4.50 earned-run average.
Pettis, a right-hander, finished 9-5 with a 3.62 ERA. He recorded six saves, giving him 40 saves in a career, the second best total at UCI.
Pettis, a three-time All-Big West Conference first-team pick, started 16 games and twice went the distance. He struck out 80 and walked 27 in 124 1/3 innings, tops at UCI.
On Tuesday, Orange Coast College saw redshirt freshman pitcher Chad Thompson and sophomore outfielder Mykal Stokes go in the draft. The Phillies chose Thompson in the 24th round (741st) and the San Diego Padres selected Stokes in the 29th round (874th).
Thompson, listed at 6-8 and 205 pounds, sat out the 2010 season.
In his final season at OCC, Stokes hit .309 with three home runs and 24 RBIs. His 11 career triples tie him for the school record in that category.
The New York Mets picked Vanguard University senior relief pitcher Peter Birdwell in the 25th round (752nd).
The right-hander finished 3-2 with a 6.43 ERA and four saves. In 35 innings, he fanned 27. The 6-3 Birdwell helped the Lions reach the NAIA National Tournament for the first time since 1985.
The local drafted players can sign with their respective organizations until Aug. 16. If they don’t work out a contract by then, they’re eligible for the next draft.
For St. John, he’s hoping Wednesday was his first step to making the roster of the hometown’s big-league team.
“I’ve always been an Angels fans,” said St. John, who is glad the Angels picked him up.