Wednesday proved much more enjoyable than Tuesday had been for Carl Stajduhar.
The University of New Mexico’s All-American third baseman heard his name called in round 18 of the Major League Baseball draft early Wednesday, ending more than 24 stressful hours of watching, waiting and wondering.
Stajduhar went to the New York Mets with pick 547 and admitted he breathed a sigh of relief.
“(Tuesday) was a little rough,” Stajduhar said in a phone interview from his family’s Fort Collins, Colo., home, “but it’s an exciting time right now. I’m really happy to be with the Mets organization.”
As things turned out, Wednesday’s 18th round had more than one New Mexico-Colorado tie. Stajduhar’s teammate at both UNM and Rocky Mountain High School, Tyler Stevens, also was selected in round 18. Stevens went to the Los Angeles Angels with pick No. 535.
That brought the number of Lobos chosen in the 2017 draft to four. Luis Gonzalez (White Sox, round three) and Jack Zoellner (Phillies, round nine) were selected Tuesday.
“Jack was a bit of surprise going that high with a broken hand,” UNM coach Ray Birmingham said, “but I’m happy for him. Now it’s just a matter of who signs and how many roster spots we have to fill.”
Stajduhar said some contract details remain to be worked out but he expects to sign with the Mets in the coming days. The junior is coming off an All-America season during which he hit .350 with six homers and 69 RBIs. Stajduhar credit UNM’s coaching staff for helping him improve as a hitter and as a defensive third baseman. He was drafted in the 27th round coming out of high school.
“Back then, teams wanted me to be a first baseman,” Stajduhar said, “but UNM’s coaches did an awesome job improving my skill set. I love third base and now I’ll have a better opportunity to play there.”
Stevens finished his junior season 7-6 with a 4.81 ERA as the Lobos’ Friday night starter. He could return for a senior season and hope to improve his draft position, but Birmingham is not optimistic.
The situation is similar for UNM signee Jacob Hilton, a senior at Colorado’s Heritage High School last season. Hilton, a right-handed pitcher, was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 28th round Wednesday.
“I kind of expect (Stevens and Hilton) to sign,” Birmingham said.
La Cueva High School right-hander Jonathan Stroman, who was taken by the Tampa Bay Rays in round 39 of the 40-round draft, is unlikely to sign. Stroman, who went 9-0 for the Class 6A champion Bears, has committed to play college baseball at Arizona.