As a typical kid growing up in La Jolla, Kyle Martin spent many summer nights dreaming of one day playing for his hometown Padres.
And while dreams don’t always turn out just as they are envisioned, Martin would find it hard to complain that he’ll soon be drawing a paycheck as a professional baseball player.
Martin, a 2003 graduate of La Jolla High School who went on to play shortstop for Texas Tech, is one step closer to the big leagues after having been drafted by the Kansas City Royals last week.
On June 8, Martin received a call from a Royals scout informing him the team had picked him in the 29th round of Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft.
“I was pretty excited. I had had a good feeling about getting drafted, I just didn’t know what round it would be in,” Martin said. “It was good to finally find out.”
Martin was one of two La Jolla graduates to be drafted. Second baseman Jack Peterson, who just completed his senior season with the Vikings, was selected in the 42nd round by the Seattle Mariners. Martin said he was told he would be assigned to one of the Royals’ low minor-league affiliates, either the Burlington (N.C.) Bees of the Low Class-A Midwest League, or the Idaho Falls Chukars of the rookie-level Pioneer League. He expected to sign a contract and be off playing ball within a week of his draft date. Given that he’ll have at least three levels to advance through before reaching the major leagues, Martin knows it could be a long road, but doesn’t expect to be fazed by the process. His road to professional baseball was not exactly a smooth one either.
Despite being selected an All-Western League player his senior season and being named La Jolla’s team Most Valuable Player as a junior and a senior, Martin received little interest from college coaches. Not willing to give up on his dream, he went on to play junior college ball at San Diego Mesa College, where he was a two-time All-Conference selection. That helped him make his way to Texas Tech, but even as he hit .302 with eight home runs and 30 RBIs as the Raiders’ starting shortstop, he didn’t get a sniff from pro scouts when he became draft eligible following his junior year.
Scouts finally starting looking at him when he increased his power numbers as a senior, batting .279 with 13 home runs, 46 RBIs and a .542 slugging percentage. “I’ve worked really hard the last four years,”
Martin said, “College baseball is a really big jump from high school baseball, and I’ve put a lot of work into improving. I think it paid off.”
Peterson helped La Jolla to one of its best seasons in recent memory this year, batting .345 with 28 runs scored and 14 RBIs as the Vikings went 21-10. He was surprised to receive a call informing him he had been drafted, according to La Jolla coach Gary Frank, Peterson was the first player drafted directly out of La Jolla High School in more than 10 years as he hadn’t had discussions with representatives from any teams before the big day.
Peterson also had much more to think about than Martin did in the days following the draft. Having been accepted to Notre Dame University, he had to weigh whether to go to school and try to make the Fighting Irish baseball team as a walk-on, or sign a contract and toil in baseball’s minor leagues with the hope of climbing his way to the top.
He chose education, knowing that he will still have a chance to be drafted after his junior or senior seasons. Within a day of being drafted, he called the scout who had recommended him and told him he would be attending Notre Dame.
“You never know if you’ll get another shot, so I guess I’ll always wonder,” Peterson said. “But I’m hoping to play at Notre Dame and then hopefully in another (three or) four years, I’ll get another shot to get drafted.”
For Frank, who coached both Martin and Peterson at La Jolla, the experience of seeing his former players drafted was rewarding. “It’s just nice to see when good kids work hard and get to follow their dreams,” Frank said. “Almost every boy’s dream is to be a professional baseball player. It’s not an easy road, but it’s a good lesson for a lot of our guys.”
Frank himself was drafted by the Padres as a second baseman out of La Jolla High School in 1990. He chose to go to Colorado State and then went on to play independent minor-league baseball. “Each individual person is different and has their different goals, but I feel like I can help these guys a little bit,” he said. “I’ve seen how professional baseball works through the years.”