ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Academy Slugger Taken With the 73rd Selection
Max Walla made history with his tape-measure home runs at Albuquerque Academy.
On Tuesday night, he made history again when the Milwaukee Brewers made the 18-year-old a second-round pick in the 2009 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft.
Walla was selected 73rd overall, making him the highest draft choice from Albuquerque since Cibola’s John Roskos also went in the second round to Florida in 1993.
“For me, it’s about the people around me right now,” Walla said amid a host of friends and family gathered in the Walla’s Northeast Heights home. “It’s a great feeling for me, but to be here with all of them is a lot of fun. It was great to see their reactions.”
Walla joins a short list of New Mexico players to go this early in the draft. The highest of them all was Carlsbad’s Shane Andrews with the 11th in the 1990.
Another Carlsbad product, Cody Ross, was taken in the fourth round by the Tigers in 1999. He’s currently in the majors with the Marlins.
Other Albuquerqueans to go in the top five rounds in the past 20 years include Eldorado’s Christian Parker in 1996 (Expos, fourth round) La Cueva’s James Parr in 2004 (Braves, fourth round) and Eldorado’s Kyle Weiland last year (Red Sox, third round).
“It’s every parent’s dream to see a day like this,” said Amy Walla, Max’s mother. “I think the first time I realized he would go this high was when a scout asked Max what he wanted to study in college, and Max didn’t have an answer because this has been his plan all along. I knew he wanted this from the start.”
“It definitely puts some excitement in the city, to have someone from here going through this,” said La Cueva’s Ryan Winter.
Milwaukee was one of five major league teams Walla worked out for in the days leading into the draft. He also had sessions with the Cubs, Angels, Mariners and Dodgers.
He was in Milwaukee over the weekend. With Brewers brass looking on, he hit five home runs in batting practice, including two into Miller Park’s upper deck in right field.
“It’s a beautiful stadium,” Walla said. “I hope I’m back there in a Brewers uniform some day.”
In the days leading into the draft Max’s father, Mike, said the family privately hoped the Brewers would call his son’s name.
He added that unlike the Scott Boras-Stephen Strasburg tandem that promises to handcuff the Washington Nationals with an extended contract negotiation, Max will likely sign a deal with Milwaukee within days.
“I think Oklahoma State just lost a recruit today,” Mike Walla said.
Max signed with OSU last fall. The Cowboys had one of their current players, plus another incoming recruit taken ahead of Walla in Tuesday’s process.
“Right now I’d say me going there is not very realistic,” Walla said.
For a time it appeared Walla’s future with Milwaukee was ruined when the Brewers picked the University of Tennessee’s Kentrail Davis in the compensation-A round. Like Walla, Davis is a stocky left-handed outfielder with power and a big arm.
“I had a feeling the Brewers would pick me, though,” Walla said.
His best friend since sixth grade, former Academy teammate Dylan Davis, said Walla’s baseball future was set years ago. The two were driving home from another long day of games and practice when Walla displayed the kind of dedication that got him to this point.
“He got out of the car and starts taking dry hacks right there in the arroyo,” Davis said. “I knew right then and there he was going places.”
La Cueva players Mitchell Garver — himself a draft prospect — and Josh McAlister had the chance to play with and against Walla over the years.
“I knew he was good, but it wasn’t until he started hitting those ginormous home runs a few years ago that it hit me how good he really was,” Garver said.
“He never got a hit off me,” McAlister said with a smile. “Got a ground-out, then I hit him and then walked him.”