MLB Draft wait ends for more locals

GLENDALE — Joe De Pinto went out of his way to make sure that he saw his name scroll across the computer screen and was there to receive the phone call from whichever Major League Baseball team decided to take him.

Despite all his best laid plans, on Tuesday, De Pinto found himself at "Jersey Mike's" sandwich shop in La Cañada Flintridge when his dad called to tell him that the Chicago White Sox had drafted the St. Francis High graduate 651st overall in the 21st round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

"It was a dream for so long," De Pinto said.

Electing to follow the draft from his mom's office, as he said he does not get cell phone reception at his house, De Pinto decided to take a break for lunch and less than five minutes later his dad called. And seconds later, a scout from the White Sox called, as well.

"At first, I was at lunch, but when I got back and saw my name on the screen," De Pinto said, "that's when it really started to set in."

While De Pinto's wait ended on the second day of the draft, three locals were taken on Wednesday — the third and final day — as Crescenta Valley High graduate Dustin Emmons, Hoover High and Glendale Community College product Sako Chapjian and Glendale Angeleno Jonathan Keener were all selected.

Emmons was drafted for the third time, as he was taken by the New York Mets in the 38th round with the 1,152nd pick, Chapjian was taken by the Atlanta Braves in the 45th round with the 1,376th selection and Keener was picked up by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 32nd round with the 980th pick overall.

Drafted out of Crescenta Valley High by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007, Emmons, a right-handed pitcher out of UC Riverside, was taken last season by the Florida Marlins in the 40th round before moving up two rounds with the Mets.

"We're excited for Dustin," said Crescenta Valley Coach Phil Torres, who skippered Emmons for four seasons at the varsity level. "In a few days [after he signs his contract], he'll be a professional baseball player. That's the coolest thing."

While Torres was keeping an eye on the draft, Emmons was not. On Tuesday, he was busy helping his mom get ready for a graduation party, as he's set to receive his bachelor's degree in sociology on Saturday and on Wednesday he was putting his cell phone in his workout bag as he was headed to the gym before a scout from the Mets gave him a call.

"It's an honor," Emmons said of getting drafted for a third time. "In years past, I'd sit there and follow every pick and say, 'I know I'll be the next guy.' After going through it before, I know it's better just to relax and do your normal stuff."

The former News-Press Male Athlete of the Year admitted he would've liked to have been selected earlier, but realized, as a college senior, the lack of leverage is certainly a factor.

"I was hoping I would go on day two, but then again, I'm a senior," he said.

Nonetheless, Emmons was characteristically gracious and humble and happy above all that he'll have a chance to work for his "dream" of becoming a major leaguer.

"I'm totally happy," said Emmons, who went 7-3 with a 6.00 earned-run average this past season with the Highlanders. "I don't care about the money or where I was taken, all I want is a shot."

While Emmons is rather clear about his future of signing with the Mets, Chapjian is clearly divided.

"A part of me wants to go and just play pro ball right now," said the GCC sophomore, who hit .296 (40 for 135) this season with 32 runs, 37 runs batted in and six home runs. "A part of me wants to go to school for one more year and get bigger, stronger, faster and better and get drafted higher next year. I have a lot of thinking to do with my parents and coaches."

Chapjian was taking a music final at Glendale college when he was called by a Braves representative. The former All-Area pick had informed his teacher that he would likely be getting a call during the final, but it was a call he had hoped would come far sooner. Still, Chapjian said the thrill of being selected in the draft was not lost on him.

"I can't even tell you the feeling," he said. "I was nervous the whole time."

Keener is a right-handed junior catcher out of Cal State Dominguez Hills who hit .266 (47 for 177) with 32 RBI and nine home runs. Though he possesses some pop at the plate, Glendale Angelenos Coach Tony Riviera said it's his arm behind that plate that's his biggest talent.

"He probably has one of the best arms in the country," Riviera said.

De Pinto was an All-Pac 10 Honorable Mention selection in his final season for the Trojans, hitting .300 (57 for 190) with 32 runs, 24 RBI and nine stolen bases. Like Emmons, he's now waiting for another call to talk about a contract and predicted it would come within the next few days. He had been told he could be selected anywhere from the 10th and 25th rounds.

"I really had no idea where I was gonna go," he said. "I was totally happy where I went."

The draft began on Monday with the first round.

On Tuesday, Angelenos outfielder Matt Young, out of Compton College, was nabbed by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 14th round with 450th pick. Glendale High graduate Jesse Meaux was the next local taken, as the UCSB starting pitcher was drafted for the second time in his career, going in the 19th round with the 588th pick to the Colorado Rockies. De Pinto was the next to go in the 21st round, just before GCC sophomore and Angelenos pitcher Ryan Sherriff was plucked by the Cardinals with the 860th pick. Sherriff was the first of two Vaqueros taken in the draft and the first of six Angelenos. Later in the day, Angelenos Drew Muren (outfielder, 22nd round, 670th pick) and Juan Perez (shortstop, 26th round, 805th pick) were taken.

Keener was taken to start the third day in the 32nd round, with Emmons going in the 38th and Chapjian going in the 45th round.

For the likes of Meaux, De Pinto and Emmons — and the group of Angelenos, should they forego the rest of the college route — the next step is contract signings and officially becoming pro ballplayers.

Said Torres: "They'll be professional baseball players and nobody can ever take that away from them."

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