Chase Mallard didn’t get the customary call, but he still received the message loud and clear.
The former Cullman pitcher and recent UAB graduate found out he was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays not by phone, but when his name popped up on the computer he and his family had been watching closely.
Mallard had only exchanged texts with Toronto earlier Saturday afternoon before being selected by the organization with the 414th overall pick in the 14th round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft.
Then, in the time it took for the page to refresh, he was a Blue Jay.
“It’s something only a minority of people will ever experience, so I’d say it’s a huge honor,” Mallard told The Times. “Working all those days that nobody else was working paid off. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Mallard shot up draft boards after a superb senior sendoff at UAB.
Used primarily as a reliever in his first three years in Birmingham, the righty spent his last as one of the Blazers’ best-ever starters. He was 9-3 with a 1.55 earned run average, 94 strikeouts and a quality outing in all 14 regular season starts, the only hurler in the nation to accomplish the feat.
Mallard was rewarded handsomely for his sensational spring, raking in Conference USA Pitcher of the Year and All-American second-team accolades.
Toronto already told Mallard he’ll be utilized as a reliever.
“I’m going to try to become as consistent as I can,” the draftee said. “Maybe put a mile an hour or two on my fastball, make my slider and changeup better, and help the Toronto Blue Jays do as good as I can.”
High school teammate Ben Moore was taken by the Boston Red Sox in the eighth round on Friday. It wasn’t lost on Mallard both big-league ballclubs are in the American League East.
“I think I was almost as happy for him as I was whenever they called my name. He’s one of my best friends,” he said. “If the opportunity arises that we get to meet up, it would be an awesome experience.”
Mallard and Moore are the latest Cullman products to realize their dreams of playing professional baseball. Josh Rutledge is currently suiting up for the Colorado Rockies, and Caleb Clay is pitching in Korea after journeys in the Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals farm systems.
Matthew Britton (Mississippi State) and Keegan Thompson (Auburn) are repping the Bearcats in the Southeastern Conference.
Mallard attributed the Black and Gold’s track record of churning out top talent to “the dedication of our coaches and our community.” He specifically called out Bryan Bowen, Brent Patterson, Jonathon Romine and Shannon Fondren.
“All those guys put in more hours than anybody I’ve ever seen,” Mallard said. “Their commitment to their players and to their development as a team is just unbelievable. I’m forever in debt to those guys because of what they’ve done.”
Mallard graduated from Cullman High in 2010, but not before making a North-South All-Star appearance and helping the Bearcats win the state title in 2008.
Patterson, the Black and Gold’s head coach since 2009, said Mallard wasn’t overpowering at the prep level but “could really pitch and deal.” He enjoyed seeing Mallard continue to develop at UAB, where the fireballer earned an Opening Day start that set the tone for his breakthrough senior season.
“It’s just awesome to watch him because he’s just consistent,” Patterson said. “He never has been a guy that got tons and tons of attention, but yet he just kept going out there doing his thing. He persevered.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at email@example.com.