Former Damien High School star Nick Lodolo was selected in the first round — eighth overall — by the Cincinnati Reds June 3 in the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

A six-foot-six junior left-handed pitcher who struck out 131 batters in 103 innings this season for Texas Christian University, Lodolo was the top 2019 draft selection with ties to a local Catholic high school. Twice All-Baseline League at Damien, he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016 but chose to attend TCU where he has developed a mid-90s fastball with sinking action to put away hitters.

In its 60-year history, Damien has produced four other major leaguers, most notably slugger Mark McGwire who hit 583 homeruns in 16 big league seasons with Oakland and St. Louis (1986-2001), as well as pitchers Frank Pastore (1979-86 with Cincinnati and Minnesota), Chris Jakubauskas (2009-11 with three teams) and Daniel Moskos (2011 with Pittsburgh).

Two members of UCLA’s No. 1-ranked baseball team who attended local Catholic schools were drafted in the second round: junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Garcia of La Salle in Pasadena, taken 50th overall by the Texas Rangers, and junior second baseman Chase Strumpf, a J.Serra product, 64th overall by the Chicago Cubs.

Garcia was one of the top pitchers in college baseball in 2019, earning Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year and first team All-America honors after posting a 10-0 record with a 1.39 ERA (sixth nationwide) and 107 strikeouts in 84 1/3 innings.

In 171 games with UCLA, Strumpf has a .298 batting average with 27 home runs, 124 RBIs, and 131 runs scored, and was All-America and All-Pac-12 as a sophomore. Within minutes of being drafted by the Cubs, Strumpf hit a three-run home run to clinch UCLA’s victory over Loyola Marymount in its L.A. Regional final.

The 2019 MLB Draft was heavily weighted toward current collegiate players, with relatively few high school players selected. Only four connected to local Catholic high schools were chosen, three from Serra High School in Gardena: pitcher-shortstop Jordan Brown in Round 6 (190th overall), by Cleveland; pitcher Kelvin Bender, Round 17 (523rd), by Milwaukee; and first baseman Mahki Backstrom, Round 18 (547th), by Atlanta.

Drafted in Round 31 (939th) was third baseman Michael Curialle of J.Serra in San Juan Capistrano, by Colorado, whose third base slot is currently occupied by another Orange County HS product, El Toro’s Nolan Arenado.

In addition to Garcia and Strumpf, three other ex-Catholic HS players finishing their senior seasons for UCLA were drafted: outfielder Jake Pries of J.Serra, Round 24 (735th) by the New York Yankees; pitcher Nathan Hadley of Loyola, Round 25 (749th) by Minnesota; and third baseman Jake Hirabayashi of Notre Dame/Sherman Oaks, Round 39 (1169th) by Minnesota.

Two members of Loyola Marymount’s NCAA regional finalist squad were selected: junior shortstop Nick Sogard in Round 12 (368th) by Tampa, and senior pitcher Codie Paiva in Round 22 (651st) by Miami.

Former Loyola HS star Angelo Armenta, a senior shortstop at San Diego State, was chosen in Round 38 (1148th) by Tampa.

Altogether, more than 1,200 players were selected in the 2019 MLB Draft.

Mike Nelson is the former editor of The Tidings (predecessor of Angelus News). 

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