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Pair of ex-Padres going pro
June 07, 2014, 05:00 AM By Terry Bernal Daily Journal

Photos courtesy of Oklahoma Baptist Sports Information Department
Julian Merryweather, above, and Matt Page were drafted by the Cleveland Indians and Washington Nationals, respectively. Both are Serra High graduates and started their college careers at Skyline before transferring to Oklahoma Baptist University. Page was the NAIA Player of the Year in 2013 and was a two-time Sooner Athletic Conference Player of the Year.

They say velocity can’t be taught. Don’t tell that to Julian Merryweather.

Friday, the former Serra High School and Skyline College pitcher was a high draft pick in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. The right-hander was selected in the fifth round out of Oklahoma Baptist University by the Cleveland Indians. And a spike in velocity this season was a big reason why.

At 6-4, Merryweather has long featured a projectable frame. Not until this season, when he started touching mid-90s with his fastball, did he become a fixture on draft radars though.

“He got to be the flavor of the month in Oklahoma as the spring wore on,” Oklahoma Baptist manager Bobby Cox said. “Everybody was in on it. So, it was exciting for him.”

Merryweather was one of two former Serra and Skyline players to be drafted out of OBU Friday, as Matt Page was selected in the 10th round by the Washington Nationals. Former Menlo School standout Danny Diekroeger was the final pick on the second day of the three-day event, held in Secaucus, New Jersey. Diekroeger was selected out of Stanford in the 10th round by the St. Louis Cardinals.

“My reaction was pretty pumped up,” Merryweather said. “It’s something that you just can’t really prepare for. It just hits you and you can’t believe it’s real. It really hasn’t sunk in.”

Just the sixth overall senior right-handed pitcher to be drafted this year, Merryweather increased his stock immensely as he increased his velocity last summer. The secret to his success was a three-day clinic he attended last June in Montgomery, Texas at Rob Wilforth’s Texas Baseball Ranch.

“The last day of the camp, after a long day in the Texas heat, it was 105 degrees, sweating,” Merryweather said. “The last thing they make you do is this drill and I hit 101 mph doing a crow-hop sort of thing. It was the camp record. That was definitely the moment that changed my whole thought process about baseball and me being serious about being drafted and all that. That was the turning point.”

As the 158th overall pick in this year’s draft, Merryweather becomes the highest selection ever for a Skyline alum in the June draft, passing Dom Pierce who was drafted in the seventh round out of Skyline by the Texas Rangers in 1988. Last year, catcher Grant Nelson — also a product of both Serra and Skyline — was drafted in the ninth round by the Diamondbacks out of St. Louis University in 2013. Merryweather is also the highest drafted player out of OBU during Cox’s tenure, which began in 1984.

“We’re just excited for Julian and his family,” Cox said. “To get drafted is a big deal anyway. That’s one of the hardest things to get to have happen is to be drafted as a baseball player. But to go in the fifth round as a senior right-handed pitcher, that puts you in pretty good company there.”

It’s especially quite a big leap after an admittedly subpar sophomore season at Skyline in 2012. Merryweather finished an abysmal season with a 0-7 baseball. Two years later as a senior transfer at NAIA powerhouse OBU, Merryweather posted a 12-3 record with a 1.07 ERA — the second best single-season ERA in program history. 

“I would never have given up on baseball, even though [2012] was one of my worst years in my entire baseball career,” Merryweather said. “But I would have not even dreamed of getting drafted in the top five rounds. That was something not even on my radar at that point.”

Upon receiving the news he’d been drafted, the first person Merryweather called was his mother, Ulrike. Known throughout his Serra and Skyline careers as Merryweather’s biggest fan, having attended most of his games, she continued to follow his career at OBU via streaming webcasts. It was an emotional call, according to Merryweather.

“Not a lot of words, honestly,” he said. “A lot of yelling, screaming and … crying. But she just told me she was really happy for me, that this is a dream come true and that she’s always believed in me. She’s been great over the years. … She’s the person I really want to do this for.”

For Page, receiving the news he’d been drafted was a strange odyssey. Six slots before the Nationals selected him with the 304th overall pick of the draft, the Giants made their final selection of Friday’s 10th round by drafting Matt Gage, a left-handed pitcher out of Siena College.

Page said his girlfriend, understandably, misheard the name being announced on MLB.com and immediately called to celebrate Page being drafted by the Giants. As he was following the draft board on his phone, Page knew better, and six picks later, as he was driving past Sequoia High School on El Camino Real, he received the news for which he was hoping.

“It’s kind of crazy the way things happen, but it was awesome,” Page said.

In joining the Nationals, Page will be joining an organization with some familiar faces. Tony Renda, with whom Page played for a year at Serra, is currently at Nationals High-A affiliate Potomac. Richie Mirowski, another ex-Serra guy who played at OBU, is currently on the disabled list at Nationals Double-A affiliate Harrisburg.

On May 28, OBU was eliminated from the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho for the second straight year. Merryweather took the loss against Oklahoma Wesleyan in an 11-inning thriller, pitching out of the bullpen for the first time in his two years with the Bison.

“Sometimes they’re going to hit you, and that’s just kind of the way it panned out,” Merryweather said. “It was a tough way to lose. But overall it was one of the greatest seasons I’ve had with the team. We set a lot of different records as a team and that was just a great experience overall.”

At 55-9, the Bison tabbed the best overall record in program history. They also set a record for the best start in school history by opening the year with 22 consecutive wins. Page and Merryweather were both named NAIA first-team All-Americans.

 

 

 

Tags: merryweather, drafted, skyline, baseball, round, draft,


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