The Baltimore Orioles selected Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year Matt Hobgood with the No. 5 pick overall in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of Norco High School in southern California.
Hobgood is the second pitcher in as many years taken with the Orioles first round pick (Brian Matusz taken fourth over all in 2008) and it could not have been a better fit, if you ask Matt.
"I couldn't have gone to a better team," the 6-4, 245 pound righty said. "I got to go with the team I wanted to go to, it was the team I was praying to go to and they pulled the trigger and picked me and I couldn't be happier where I'm at."
For Orioles fans, the hope is that this good fit could translate into a quick signing, as the last two top picks ended up signing moments before the signing deadline. For Hobgood, he hopes to sign as soon as possible, as he said he was "eager" to get back out and play.
"We haven't talked money or anything, but I've said all along I just want to be treated fairly and I think the signing process will go smooth," Hobgood said.
"I've been going since about January-Februrary, but I'd like to sign and get out there and start. We haven't talked money or anything at all. I think the signing process will go smoothly, but we'll have to see."
The Orioles know he will bring a low 90's, heavy, sinking fastball and plus curve, with room to work on a slider and need to improve a changeup, but he will also bring maturity beyond his years.
"I think that most of [my maturity] comes from, not only how my parents raised me, but some of the things I had to go through in losing my dad," Hobgood said. "If you ask anybody who loses a parent at that age, it makes you have to grow up and in my case, losing my dad and me being one of the oldest in my family, you kind of have to step up. I think that's probably why I'm so mature for my age."
Hobgood has faced many challenges on the field, and off the field, but said he is up for them. It reflects in who he looks up to and in his game.
"Right off I guess you could say a pitcher I really like is Nolan Ryan," Hobgood said. "I like him, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, even though he's left-handed. If you look at all those guys, none of those guys back down, they're all bulldogs on the mound and that's how I see myself as a pitcher."
"I don't back down from a challenge. I think the better the hitter, the better I play, it brings out the best in me, I think."
Now he is up for the challenge of pitching in professional baseball. The 18-year-old pitcher said he does not plan on being a Titan at Cal State Fullerton. Of course, pitching would mean he would have to give up his bat, despite leading his team in home runs (21), RBI (55) and runs (47) in just 117 plate-appearnaces. He also finished second on the team with a .475 average.
"It'll be kind of hard [to give up the bat], I'll get over it, but I really think my future's on the mound," Hobgood said. "That's what I kind of figured out since the beginning of this year. I'll sneak in a few at-bats here and there, maybe they won't recognize me as one of the pitchers and I'll get some at-bats here or there in BP, but I'll be able to go without it."
He also said he can definitely hit home runs with a wooden bat. Suddenly, pitchers' batting practice may be interesting in the coming years at the minor league parks. Ending his full-time batting career will be a small sacrifice for his future on the mound, and he looks forward to get started on his professional career.
"It's been nothing but exciting; I'm still kind of in shock, this whole week has been just a dream come true."