Rowdy Tellez fielded phone calls from prospective baseball employers throughout the weekend. They talked facts and figures, hopes and dreams.
Tellez, The Bee's two-time Baseball Player of the Year out of Elk Grove High School known for his sweet swing and majestic home runs, remained firm on his figure. He wanted a certain signing bonus. Those on the other end of the line disagreed.
After analysts on ESPN, the MLB Network and across the Internet projected Tellez to go as high as the first round but no lower than the fourth, he endured a quantum drop to match what his jaw did. He slipped all the way to the 30th round, where the Blue Jays finally drafted him.
Hello, baseball business.
"That's what it is," Tellez said after a Monday workout, declining to confirm a signing-bonus goal exceeding $1 million. "The weekend was still a joy. Just to be drafted is an honor. There's like 400,000 kids playing high school baseball in this country, and only so many get drafted. There was nothing wrong with the weekend. We had a certain number out there, and teams were hesitant, and we take it from there."
What's next for the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Tellez? He said he's bound for USC on scholarship, unless the Blue Jays surprise him with a signing bonus too good to pass up.
Tellez put on a good face despite the disappointment of not getting picked on the first day or the second day because he had spent the past three years gearing for this event.
On the eve of the draft, Tellez was flown to Los Angeles for a workout at Dodger Stadium. From LAX, he flew to Oakland to take swings for A's executives. And then the Giants. On Tuesday, he crushed a 435-foot batting-practice shot in Seattle. Major-league clubs don't bring in 30th-round picks for workouts. They bring in high rounders for a peek.
Tellez said he is in good spirits because baseball is all about challenges. He plans to respond. He also knows how to play this new game a bit now, too.
"I'll either go to USC, which has won more national championships than anyone, or go professional if the Blue Jays are close to my number, and then go play in the minors with the same goal of making it to the bigs, so what's to lose?" Tellez said. "Either way, I'll have a blast. Two paths to get to the same place."
Tellez said he will continue to refine his craft his swing, his defensive skills, his body. He knows he can get better. He'll also continue to network. Tellez reached out in recent months to regional baseball greats.
He spoke to brothers Leon and Leron Lee, the Grant High stars of the 1960s who became icons in Japan. After watching Tellez hit a home run in a playoff game at Sacramento City College, Leon Lee said, "The kid has a major-league future." Tellez talked to Derrek Lee, Leon's son. Lee was a first-round pick out of El Camino High in 1993 and enjoyed a long major-league career.
Monday, Tellez chatted for 90 minutes with Geoff Jenkins, who can relate to draft heartache. Jenkins was a power hitter, like Tellez, at Cordova High. He was picked in the 24th round in 1992, some 22 rounds lower than he had hoped. Jenkins instead went to USC, where he hit 45 career home runs and drove in a school-record 175 runs during an All-America career. He emerged better for the experience.
"The best thing you can ever do is go to college and grow," Jenkins said years ago.
Three years later, Jenkins was drafted by the Brewers in the first round, ninth overall. He logged 11 big-league seasons, hitting 221 homers. He's now a coach for an independent team in Arizona.
"Geoff's become a really good friend," Tellez said. "He said USC was the time of his life, met some of his best friends there and is still close to people there. That made me feel good."
Longtime Cordova coach Guy Anderson said Tellez, too, can learn from this experience.
"Geoff was really disappointed he didn't go higher out of high school, but look how it turned out," Anderson said. "The thing about college is it's good for you, and if you're good, you can eliminate two or three years of the minor leagues. I think it's just outstanding that Tellez and Geoff talked. Local guys look out for each other. Geoff cares about baseball, and I do know this: If you love the game of baseball, the game itself will love you back. Tellez will find out."