Tuesday was a pretty good day for Lodi's Mitch Walding.
In the morning, the St. Mary's High School senior star was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the fifth round of the MLB draft.
On Tuesday night, he played in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship game against Jesuit at Sacramento City College.
"It is a crazy day. I woke up at 9 a.m. to watch the draft and then cut out for a quick lunch and headed to the field to hit some balls. Then headed to Sacramento to play," Walding said before playing Jesuit. "It is pretty nuts today, but you can't really ask for a better day. Hopefully it will be capped off with a win."
Scouts had been recruiting Walding, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound hard-hitting shortstop, for months leading up to the draft. Walding has committed to play baseball for Oregon on a full-ride starting in the fall. Walding is still deciding whether to continue with his plan and go to Oregon, or begin his career with the Phillies.
On Tuesday morning, Walding was at his home in Lodi watching the MLB draft with his family when he was announced as the 181st overall pick.
"I was obviously ecstatic," Walding said. "They didn't even call me before the pick and it was the last one in the fifth round. I didn't expect anything and then my friend (Jonathan Davis of Elk Grove High School) was called with the pick right before me by the Rays. Then I heard my name and everyone started screaming. I was thrilled."
About a minute later, the area scout for the Phillies called Walding to confirm the selection. The scout then said he would see him at the section championship game on Tuesday night.
A very popular prospect on the MLB radar, Walding said he thinks he talked to every Major League organization except for the Cleveland Indians in the months leading up to the draft. Walding's numbers — a .433 average, 22 runs scored, 21 RBIs, nine stolen bases, 14 walks and only six strikeouts all with a wooden bat — showed why he was worthy of all the attention, including having several scouts and many of his games, countless phone calls and numerous hitting seasons with scouts.
He was very happy when he finally found out he was chosen by Philadelphia.
"I am excited because it was pretty much narrowed down to three teams: the Red Sox, Twins and Phillies — all big names," Walding said. "The Phillies are a great organization. They are World Series Champions and they are always in the running for the playoffs year in and year out."
Scouts have been following Walding all season. The last few weeks have been especially intense, with Walding having to balance finals, graduation and playoff baseball in the days leading up to the draft.
"There were like 20 scouts at first couple of games and it is one of those things where you can't believe they are there for you," Walding said. "It is cool, but then you know you have to play at a top-notch level day in and day out. It is nerve-wracking, but it was a good experience that not everyone gets to be a part of."
Walding is leaving Lodi on Thursday to play in a summer league in Washington. He said he and the Phillies will be keeping in close touch and they will be watching him play frequently. He also said that is when they plan to discuss financial terms and details of the deal. Walding will then have to decide if he wants to sign or play for Oregon.
Walding's mother Kerri??? said they were not able to discuss the financial details of the ongoing talks with the Phillies, but said the organization was offering a "very good deal." Previous draft picks selected in Walding's time frame have signed contracts valued at anywhere from $150,000 to $1 million.
Walding will pitch Game 2 of the best-of-three series against Jesuit today at 4 p.m. Game 3 will follow if necessary. Even though the Phillies want to use Walding as a shortstop, he has been pretty effective on the mound this year. He put up a 0.35 ERA in 40.1 innings pitched while holding opponents to a .224 average. He's only given up two earned runs all season and gone 6-0 in nine appearances with one complete game and one shutout.
Contact reporter Joelle Milholm at firstname.lastname@example.org.