The dream started when Nick Madrigal was 6 years old.
He studied baseball games at every turn — on TV, in person, with his own wiffle ball bat — and he would climb into bed visualizing making plays.
On Monday afternoon, a dream became reality when the Elk Grove High School graduate and Oregon State star second baseman was selected by the Chicago White Sox with the fourth overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft.
Madrigal is the highest drafted OSU player and the highest to go in regional history since the draft started in 1965.
"It's definitely a special moment," Madrigal said from Corvallis, Ore., where he was surrounded by teammates and flanked by parents Angie and Mike Madrigal. "It's special not only for me and my family, but my hometown."
The only issue with Madrigal wound up not being much of an issue at all — his height.
Oregon State lists the junior at 5-foot-8, but his dad said he is 5-7, which is what Major League Baseball has him listed at.
Regardless, Madrigal's skills, relentless work ethic and baseball instincts made him a can't-miss prospect. He is the shortest player ever selected in the first round.
"I can't do anything about my height, but I can work hard and play hard," Madrigal said in an interview with The Bee leading up to the draft.
Harold Reynolds of the MLB Network said, "Size is not going to matter. The thing I like about (Madrigal) is he can hit the ball to all fields."
Madrigal's draft position means he can sign for approximately $6.4 million. His parents will be there, one way or another. Though divorced, they have made it a point to regularly attend games while their son excelled in the Pacific-12 Conference. OSU is coming off an NCAA Regional victory and will this weekend host a Super Regional, where a win sends the Beavers to the College World Series.
"Planes, trains, automobiles, I'll find a way to watch his professional debut," said Mike Madrigal, who said he has logged some 18,000 miles on his car this season to follow his son.
Madrigal was a star since he was a boy. His father recalled how his son would be selected right away in wiffle ball games, never mind he was 10 years old, some five or six years younger than the others. Madrigal received his first scholarship offer before he entered Elk Grove High, from Oregon State, and he was a four-year star with the Thundering Herd, earning Bee co-Player of the Year honors with his twin brother "and my best friend" Ty Madrigal, a pitcher for Saint Mary's.
"Nick has earned it, and no one's worked harder," Elk Grove coach Jeff Carlson said.
Said Franklin coach Bryan Kilby, who faced Madrigal over four seasons, "He's a special player and has been since he was really young. He defies all the odds that everyone stacks up against him in terms of size, but he's a baseball player, a complete player."
Madrigal is the third Elk Grove High player selected in the first round since 2014, joining outfielder Derek Hill (Detroit Tigers) and Dylan Carlson (St. Louis Cardinals). Pitcher Matt Manning of Elk Grove rival Sheldon was picked in the first round in 2016. Madrigal now aims to join former Elk Grove star J.D. Davis in the majors. Davis is with the Houston Astros, who also employ Jose Altuve, a 5-foot-6 infielder who leads the majors in hits this season.
The highest drafted player in regional history before Madrigal was power pitcher Butch Edge in 1974 out of El Camino. The highest drafted area athlete for any sport is Bill Cartwright of Elk Grove, who in 1979 went third overall to the New York Knicks.
Sacramento-area first-round picks in the MLB draft
Sixteen players from the Sacramento area have been selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft. Here's the list:
Chicago White Sox
St. Louis Cardinals
San Diego Padres
Chicago White Sox
Boston Red Sox
St. Louis Cardinals