ORLANDO, Fla. – When Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig stepped to the podium and said, \”With the 15th pick in the 2007 first-year player draft, the Cincinnati Reds select Devin Mesoraco, a catcher from Punxsutawney Area High School, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania,\” one of the 6-1, 195-pounder\’s dreams became reality Tuesday afternoon.
Mesoraco, who will be 19 on June 19, was the sixth high school player selected. One other catcher went ahead of him, the Baltimore Orioles picking Georgia Tech junior Matthew Wieters No. 5. Wieters is a 6-4, 225-pound switcher-hitter with power who went higher than most scouts projected.
For Mesoraco, hearing his named called while surrounded by family, teammates, friends and fans in Zach\’s Sports and Spirit Bar in Altoona was the culmination of a whirlwind day.
Earlier, the Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year drew three walks, one an intentional free pass, in four trips to the plate and scored two runs as the District 9 champion Punxsutawney Chucks advanced to the PIAA Final Four with a 7-0 quarterfinal win over District 6 titlist Lewistown behind junior righthander Christian Muth\’s one-hit pitching.
More than a dozen scouts showed up to watch Mesoraco during the regular season and district playoffs, but the only pro scout on hand for Tuesday\’s game at Altoona\’s Mansion Park was Jeff Brookens of the Reds.
\”It\’s very difficult to find a good, quality catcher,\” Reds senior director of scouting Chris Buckley told Mark Sheldon of MLB.com for an article that appeared on Cincinnati\’s web site. \”I think it\’s a thin position all over Major League Baseball. We\’ve been following him for quite a while. Our area scout (Brookens) begged us to pick him, and we liked that.\”
Sheldon noted that Mesoraco was the first catcher taken in the first round by the Reds and only the third first-round catcher taken in the organization\’s history.
Proving he had come all the way back from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery after his sophomore season, when he injured his right elbow pitching in relief, was the key to Mesoraco climbing up the draft charts this spring. He was limited to the role of designated hitter as a junior but said his arm was 100 percent for the 2007.
Dr. Tim Kremchek, the Cincinnati team medical director, confirmed there were no problems with Mesoraco\’s arm after a recent examination, according to Weldon.
In the scouting report on Major League Baseball\’s web site that was filed after Punxsy\’s April 23 game against Bald Eagle Area, the scout summarized his assessment with one final sentence, \”He\’s a complete catching package, with hitting ability, power, good hands, a plus arm and outstanding leadership ability.\”
His notes on specific focus areas rated Mesoraco as having a ton of hitting ability, doesn\’t swing at bad pitches, plus power that eventually will be to all fields, a fringy-average runner that is pretty good for a catcher, a plus arm which he isn\’t afraid to use in pick-off attempts, throw always right on the money, plus hands behind the plate, outstanding at blocking balls in the dirt, off the charts (baseball instincts) with great makeup, very aggressive and a natural leader.
During the regular season, Mesoraco hit .467 with four home runs and 21 runs batted in.
Mesoraco accepted an NCAA scholarship from the University of Virginia earlier in his senior year, but his future plans changed completely Tuesday.
Weldon wrote that the Reds paid $2 million to 2006 top pick and No. 8 overall pick Drew Stubbs and $1.8 million to 2005 first pick and No. 12 selection Jay Bruce. Both are outfielders.
Research by D9Sports.com revealed that Mesoraco is District 9\’s highest draft pick since the Houston Astros made John \”Sarge\” Mizerock, another Punxsutawney star catcher, the No. 8 selection in 1979. Dubois pitcher Jim Pittsley was taken No. 17 by the Kansas City Royals in 1992.
Mizerock reached the majors in 1983 and played in 103 games for the Astros and the Atlanta Braves through 1989, hitting .186 with two home runs and 24 runs batted in. He played in 44 games for the Astros in 1986 when they won the National League West Division crown.
Pittsley, a righthander, pitched in 81 games for the Royals and Milwaukee Brewers from 1995 through 1999 and posted a 7-12 record with a 6.02 earned run average. He made 29 starts, 21 of them with the Royals in 1997 when he was 5-8 with a 5.46 ERA.