Blake Perkins wasn’t necessarily expecting his phone to ring the evening of June 8. Most of his close friends and family members were already at his Buckeye home, celebrating his recent graduation from Buckeye Verrado High.
But it sure felt nice to be surrounded by his biggest fans when Perkins got the call that every young baseball player dreams about.
Each year, hundreds of lives across the country are forever changed during a three-day stretch in mid-June, commonly known as the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
This year, like any other, many of those life-changing moments came here in Arizona, as 13 local high school players were selected in the draft’s 40 rounds.
Their next big moment arrived Friday, which was the deadline to sign a pro contract or go to college and hope to improve their status in a future draft.
Perkins, a slick-fielding, speedy outfielder who hit .461 as a senior at Verrado, was the first, taken in the second round (69th overall) by the Washington Nationals near the end of the draft’s first day.
He was prepared to go anywhere in the first five rounds, so after he answered the phone and then tuned in to MLB Network with his supporters to watch the pick become official, it was time for another celebration.
“It was a great moment,” Perkins said. “(The Nationals) called me before the pick, and then after they called my name (on TV), it got pretty loud. I didn’t even get to hear everything they said about me, but I went back and watched it, because we recorded it. It was pretty cool to see my name up there and hear people talking about me.
“It really was a dream come true.”
That scene played out in similar fashion in living rooms around the state over the next two days, with prospects getting the good news from team officials and advisers.
Some followed the online draft tracker and scanned their Twitter feeds, eagerly hoping to see their name pop up on the screen.
Others, like former Phoenix Greenway shortstop Alejo Lopez, were content knowing they would be taken at some point, and preferred to drown out the hype.
“Everybody had a different opinion on it, but I tried not to stress too much,” said Lopez, who was chosen in the 27th round by the Cincinnati Reds.
“I just tried to distract myself with something else. I really had no clue what my draft status was, so I just waited, and then my mom walked into my room one day and told me I got drafted. So that was pretty exciting.”
For many of the mid-to-late-round picks such as Lopez, a tough decision then arose: Agree to a contract (with a tantalizing signing bonus) and turn pro, or go off to college for at least three years with the hopes of going higher in the draft down the road.
PHOTOS: Arizona connections in 2015 MLB draft
Lopez, like Perkins, had committed to play at Arizona State but chose to bypass college, take the money and embark on his professional career.
With the passing of Friday’s 2 p.m. signing deadline, seven of the 13 Arizona prep baseball players taken in the draft have agreed to contracts, while the rest will take the collegiate route.
Travis Howard’s decision wasn’t difficult. After making azcentral sports’ All-Arizona team as a senior at Marana this past season, Howard slipped all the way to the 39th round, where he was selected by the Detroit Tigers.
With a solid commitment in place to Santa Clara, Howard didn’t even entertain a serious offer from the Tigers before doubling down on his original plan.
“After (the first 10 rounds), it was pretty easy for me to say, OK, I’m probably going to college,” Howard said. “Coming out of high school, I wanted a team to truly believe in me, and it’s hard to believe you’re a top guy when there were that many other people taken before you.
“I was definitely still excited to get drafted out of high school. Now I’m just looking forward to college.”
The ones that did sign must now attempt to navigate a grueling road through the minor leagues, with most starting at the lowest level: Rookie ball, either in the local Arizona League, Florida’s Gulf Coast League or any of several others around the country, depending on team affiliation.
Fortune smiled on former Tucson Sahuaro right-hander Javier Medina, who was taken in the third round by the Colorado Rockies and now plays for their Rookie ball affiliate in Grand Junction, Colo.
Growing up in Hermosillo, Mexico, Medina idolized former Rockies third baseman Vinny Castilla, a local hero.
“He was the guy back in Hermosillo,” Medina said. “He actually called me the day I got drafted, just to congratulate me and welcome me to the organization. And then I met him when I signed my contract. That was a pretty cool moment for me.”
Medina and the other signees are adjusting to the rigors of minor-league life, with exhausting bus rides (at least, as Perkins pointed out, “It’s not yellow school buses anymore”), cramped hotel rooms and a long journey ahead that will end, hopefully, with another moment that kids dream about on the baseball fields of their youth — a call-up to the major leagues.
Even if that doesn’t happen, they’ll always have the memory of being drafted, together with those they create along the way.
“It’s pretty crazy how it worked out,” Medina said. “I never thought I’d be here right now. But I’m glad I am.”
ARIZONA HS DRAFTEES
State high school baseball products who were drafted last month and their current status:
Blake Perkins, OF, Buckeye Verrado (Washington, 2nd round/69th overall pick), signed.
Javier Medina, RHP, Tucson Sahuaro (Colorado, 3/77), signed.
Donny Sands, IF, Tucson Salpointe Catholic (N.Y. Yankees, 8/243), signed.
Terrance Robertson, OF, Surprise Valley Vista (Yankees, 12/363), signed.
Jio Orozco, RHP, Salpointe (Seattle, 14/425), signed.
Alan Garcia, OF, Phoenix Mountain Pointe (San Diego, 19/567), signed.
Tyler Williams, OF, Glendale Raymond S. Kellis (Minnesota, 26/770), did not sign; attending Arizona State.
AJ Graffanino, SS, Phoenix Northwest Christian (Cleveland, 26/784), did not sign; attending Washington.
Alejo Lopez, SS, Phoenix Greenway (Cincinnati, 27/805), signed.
Tyler Watson, LHP, Gilbert Perry (Washington, 34/1,034), signed.
Garvin Alston, LHP, Mountain Pointe (Chicago White Sox, 37/1,102), did not sign; attending ASU.
Matt Kroon, 3B, Phoenix Horizon (Cincinnati, 38/1,135), did not sign; attending Oregon.
Travis Howard, RHP, Marana (Detroit, 39/1,180), did not sign; attending Santa Clara.