(Danny Hultzen takes in Safeco Field today after his introductory press conference with Brad Miller. Photo by Getty Images.).
The Mariners introduced their top two draft picks at a press conference Wednesday at Safeco Field, left-handed pitcher Danny Hultzen, the first-rounder (No. 2 overall), and shortstop Brad Miller (second round, No. 62 overall). Born 41 days apart in 1989, both made an impressive, poised first presentation.
Both come out of the ACC, of course, Hultzen from Virginia and Miller from Clemson. That was a big topic of conversation, particularly in light of the ascension of two high ACC picks from 2009, North Carolina teammates Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager. Ackley and Seager, in fact, dined with Hultzen last week at the Metropolitan Grill when he was in town for a physical examination.
“It seems like it’s a coincidence all these ACC players are joining this organization,” said Hultzen. “I think it’s really cool. It seems every year, a couple of guys get drafted (from the ACC) and end up joining the organization. I don’t know how that happens. I guess Mr. McNamara likes the ACC players.”
At that point, “Mr. McNamara” — Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara, who was on the podium along with Jack Zduriencik and the signees — nodded and said with a smile, “Yes.”
Said Miller: “It’s cool, playing in the ACC and facing pitchers like Danny, and hitters like Ackley and Seager, who we saw when we were freshmen. That’s what you want, to play at that high level with those great players. It’s been cool to follow them, two left-handed hitters like me. I looked up to them. It’s great to have them pave the way and already be up here.”
I asked Hultzen and Miller how well they knew each other before they were thrust together via the draft, and how they did against each other in ACC play.
“We’re not going to talk about how I fared against Danny today,” said Miller, smiling. “Obviously, he’s one of the best pitchers in the country. I was happy to end up on the same team as him this time. We actually got to meet each other earlier this year in Lubbock, Texas at an awards ceremony. It was cool getting to know him after facing him.”
Said Hultzen: “After facing a guy for however many years, you kind of expect what kind of guy he is. You know what kind of player he is — he’s really good. You hope he’s a good guy, too, and Brad’s definitely a good guy. That was good to see.”
Hultzen was the ACC Pitcher of the Year and Miller the ACC Player of the Year in 2011. They both realize they have a chance to advance quickly in the Mariner organization. Ackley and Seager were in their position exactly two years ago and are now in the majors.
“It’s an exciting time,” Miler said. “You’re seeing that some days, five or six rookies are out there on the field, depending on who’s pitching. That’s exciting. Obviously, they have a lot of talent that’s young and coming up through the minors. It’s a testament to how well they’ve done in scouting and how well guys are performing.”
Zduriencik confirmed that Hultzen will play in the Arizona Fall League in October after reporting to instructional league. Miller will be going to Class A Clinton in the next day or two, then instructional league. Hultzen reiterated what his advisor, Brodie Van Wagenen, told me Monday night, that he will not be attending classes at Virginia.
“I think I’m going to put the education thing on hold for a little while,” he said. “My education is really, really important to me, but this organization has shown a lot of confidence in me, so I want to return that and start my playing career as soon as possible. Hopefully, one day I’ll graduate and have a college degree. I don’t know when that will be.”
One other thing: I was told that the story making the rounds earlier this year that Hultzen had a multi-million-dollar trust fund awaiting him from his family, but only if he attended medical school, is completely false.