CHARLOTTESVILLE — Danny Hultzen was all smiles as he took the mound Monday night at Davenport Field. With the stands empty, the University of Virginia star pitcher toed the rubber for a series of pictures with his parents and Cavaliers Coach Brian O’Connor, less than 20 minutes before the start of the Major League Baseball first-year player draft.
Hultzen has at least one more start remaining in a Virginia uniform — and he said he remains focused on the Cavaliers’ NCAA tournament run — but Monday night was a time to commemorate Hultzen’s terrific college career with an eye toward his professional career.
In somewhat of a surprise, Hultzen was selected second overall by the Seattle Mariners, leaving the 21-year-old with his hands clasped behind his head in amazement as he watched the announcement on television while sitting with teammates and family members in the Virginia baseball clubhouse.
“I was completely and utterly shocked I was picked there,” Hultzen said. “I was kind of expecting to wait a little longer.”
O’Connor noted that Seattle had a scout at each of Hultzen’s starts this season but he also was surprised. He said he had spoken with Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara earlier Monday about one of the Cavaliers’ high school recruits but did not discuss Hultzen during the phone call.
No Washington-area native or Virginia player has ever been selected higher. Jay Franklin of Vienna was selected second overall by the San Diego Padres in 1971, while Ryan Zimmerman previously was the highest Cavalier selected in the draft, going fourth overall to the Nationals in 2005.
Hultzen, who grew up a Baltimore Orioles fan, said he has never been to Seattle, but “it’s not as rainy as everyone thinks it is.”
In the weeks leading up to the draft, there was plenty of speculation regarding Hultzen, a 6-foot-3, left-handed junior who was the All-Met Player of the Year for St. Albans in 2008.
With his stock rising throughout the season, Hultzen met with representatives of teams with the first six picks, including McNamara. Last week, he notified those clubs and the MLB scouting bureau the conditions under which he would turn professional and skip his senior year of college.
According to sources familiar with the situation but requesting anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly, Hultzen e-mailed the teams that he wanted a $13 million signing bonus with a major league contract and the opportunity to return to college for classes in the fall, at the team’s expense. A history major, he needs two semesters to graduate.
Those terms apparently were not a deal-breaker, though Hultzen is not interested in beginning contract negotiations any time soon.
“That’s not even on our radar screen,” Hultzen said. “That’s something for whenever our season ends.”
Hultzen was spectacular this past weekend, going 7 for 11 at the plate and driving in five runs and striking out 12 in seven innings in his one start as the Cavaliers swept three games to advance in the NCAA tournament. Virginia (52-9) will host Cal-Irvine in a best-of-three Super Regional beginning either Friday or Saturday, with the winner moving on to the College World Series in Omaha.
Hultzen, who already holds Virginia’s all-time records for victories (31) and strikeouts (378), remained poised and focused throughout the scouting process. He was the first player to arrive at the stadium Monday, nearly three hours before the draft, watching tapes of Cal-Irvine games, running, stretching and then throwing in the bullpen. He then showered, threw on the clothes in which he seems most comfortable — a gray Virginia baseball T-shirt and shorts — and enjoyed a moment on the field with his parents.
“They’ve never been on the field,” Hultzen said. “That was something I wanted to share with them.”
Note: Left-handed pitcher Kevin Matthews of Richmond Hill, Ga., a Virginia recruit, was taken 33rd overall by the Texas Rangers.