Representatives from 10 different Major League teams each called Mitch Haniger prior to the start of the first-year player draft.
The message was simple: Good luck, and we hope we get you.
With just first 60 picks of the 40-round draft scheduled for Monday, one team did, and the Milwaukee Brewers made the Cal Poly junior outfielder the highest drafted Mustangs player in the program’s Division I era and second-highest overall.
“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Haniger said.
Haniger will join former Mustangs outfielder Logan Schafer in Milwaukee’s farm system.
Landing in the compensatory round, the Brewers took the reigning Big West Conference Player of the Year with 38th overall pick in the draft. Schafer, a 2008 third-round pick who made his Major League debut last year, is playing for Milwaukee’s class AAA team in Nashville.
Though never collegiate teammates, the two players have gotten to know each other at preseason alumni games, and Schafer sent Haniger text messages welcoming him to the franchise. Chicago White Sox third baseman Brent Morel reached out, too.
“A lot of the alumni with Cal Poly are great about that,” Haniger said. “Brent Morel texted me and Logan said, ‘let me know if you have any questions about minor league ball’ and stuff.”
Former Cal Poly catcher John Orton was selected by the California Angels with the 25th pick in the first round in 1987. Left-handed pitcher Garrett Olson had been the highest drafted Cal Poly player since the program moved up to Division I in 1994, going 48th overall to the Baltimore Orioles in the compensatory round in 2005.
After the first 31 picks comprised the first round, there were 29 compensatory selections awarded to MLB teams who lost free agents in the offseason. The Brewers selected Haniger with a pick they received for Prince Fielder signing a free-agent deal with the Detroit Tigers in the offseason.
Haniger was the 18th college player taken overall. There were 20 high school seniors taken ahead of him.
Haniger experienced the draft as a high school player, too. He was taken by the New York Mets in the 31st round out of San Jose’s Archbishop Mitty High in the 2009 draft.
He came to Cal Poly knowing he could up his draft stock tremendously by having a quality college career, and Haniger ended up becoming the Mustangs’ first baseball All-America selection in five years.
This past season, Haniger led the Big West with 13 home runs, 64 RBI, a .626 slugging percentage, 132 total bases and seven sacrifice flies. A three-year starter, Haniger is fourth on Cal Poly’s all-time career list with 26 home runs. He’s tied for third with 47 doubles and tied for fifth with 137 RBI.
Cal Poly senior shortstop Mike Miller and senior pitcher Kyle Anderson are still waiting to have their names called and could be selected in the ensuing rounds of the draft, which are scheduled to take place today and Wednesday.
Mustangs junior pitching staff ace Joey Wagman is also draft eligible as is junior reliever Nick Grim, who was taken 14th round by the Miami Marlins out of Monterey Peninsula College last June.
Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee isn’t as sure when or if his other players will have their names called, though he is sure they are deserving.
Lee was much more positive about Haniger being a first-day pick, and it didn’t take long for Haniger to go once the first round ended.
Haniger’s older brother Jason, a four-year catcher at Georgia Tech was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 18th round in 2008 but declined to sign professionally.
Though he has one more season of college eligibility, the younger Haniger expects to sign a professional contract with Milwaukee next week, when he will receive his first official minor league assignment for the summer.
“I just want to thank God, my family and coaches,” Haniger said. “I couldn’t have gone without any of those guys.”