A hard-throwing pitcher who overcame myriad injuries and a smooth-hitting infielder who relished the chance to compete with the burden of his famous last name highlighted the Sacramento-area haul for this week’s Major League Baseball amateur draft.
Sacramento State ace Justin Dillon was the highest area prospect selected, the El Dorado High School graduate going in the 10th round (out of 40) to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Jesuit shortstop Darren Baker was picked in the 27th round by the Washington Nationals, managed by his father, Dusty Baker, the 1960s Del Campo High star.
It’s not easy being the son of an ex-major leaguer who fills out lineup cards for a living, but Baker enjoyed the challenge. He has the option of signing with the Nationals, though he appears to be headed to Cal on scholarship. Baker could get drafted again out of Cal, a recent MLB trend as more college players are being selected in higher rounds than prep prospects.
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Baker fired back on social media after his draft selection when someone tweeted, “I’m sure Darren feels confident he was chosen based solely own his own merit.”
Baker tweeted back to the fan whose profile featured a dog, “I feel really confident I’ll be drafted twice, and you’ll still be on here posting more pics of your dog.”
Fifteen years ago, Baker was famously yanked out of harm’s way at the plate in Game 5 of the 2002 World Series as a 3-year-old bat boy for the Giants, managed by Dusty. Baker hit .396 and had a .476 on-base percentage for Jesuit this season, stealing 12 bases.
Dillon endured arm and groin injuries to produce one of the best careers in Hornets pitching history, leaving the program ranked fifth in career strikeouts (187) and seventh in innings pitched (230).
He tossed the first no-hitter in Sac State’s Division I era dating to 1990, against Northern Kentucky on Feb. 23, earning national collegiate Player of the Week honors for his 13-strikeout gem.
Dillon won six games as a senior, facing nationally ranked programs.
He went 2-0, allowing one run and striking out 12, in the Western Athletic Conference tournament, advancing the Hornets to an NCAA Regional for the second time in three seasons. He became the 11th Hornet picked in the top-10 rounds, and the first pitcher since Chris Kinsey went in the fourth round in 2003.
Sacramento-area players picked in the Major League Baseball draft:
Sacramento State (El Dorado)
Texas (Capital Christian)
Long Beach CC (El Camino)
Fresno State (River Valley)
Long Beach State (Elk Grove)
Lewis-Clark State (Yuba City)