RIGHT-HANDED PITCHERS whose fastball can’t clock 80 MPH on the radar gun coming out of high school typically aren’t coveted by Major League Baseball organizations.
Neither are 24-year old college seniors who suffer career-threatening elbow injuries, undergo major reconstructive surgery, rehab for 18 months, relearn how to pitch to live batters and end up hitting 98 MPH while helping lead the third college of their career to a 50-win season and a spot in the NAIA World Series.
In a nutshell, this is the story of 2012 Port Angeles High School graduate Cole Uvila, whose roundabout and remarkable journey to being drafted in the 40th round by the Texas Rangers is chronicled in more detail on page B1.
“I swear I’ve been dreaming about the day I was back in the PDN for being drafted since I was a freshman in college,” Uvila said.
It was a privilege to talk with Uvila Wednesday — how often do you get the chance to interview someone on the most meaningful day of their lives? The day when a childhood dream is realized?
Uvila will soon set out for Surprize, Ariz., the spring training home of the Rangers, to undergo a physical, sign a pro contract and learn where he’ll begin the next chapter of his life in baseball — rookie ball under the glare of the Arizona sun — or short-season Class A ball Spokane Indians.
Uvila will continue to hone his three-pitch arsenal: a fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s, along with his off-speed stuff, a slider and changeup in the low-to-mid 80s.
And he’ll continue to work on developing the mentality required of a relief pitcher. Uvila said the Rangers have told him he’s “a late-innings guy.”
Nothing is set in stone, Uvila said late Wednesday, but signs are pointing toward, and Uvila is hoping for, a summer full of stops in Northwest League locales such as Everett, the Tri-Cities, Vancouver, B.C. and Eugene, Ore.
That way, friends and family can come out and root along the first North Olympic Peninsula product to be drafted by an MLB team since the Tampa Bay Rays selected Chimacum’s Landon Cray in 2015.
Uvila’s dad Steve and stepmom Lisa (White), a former teacher in Port Angeles, now live in Quincy — easy driving distance for all the Northwest League clubs.
Cray went on to play two seasons in the Rays’ organization, reaching as far as high-A ball with the Charlotte Stone Crabs.
And Uvila’s name now joins the list of Port Angeles Roughriders drafted by a MLB team.
That list includes Uvila’s former Port Angeles teammate Easton Napiontek, a 34th-round pick by the Rangers back in 2013.
“Easton was one of my best friends in high school,” Uvila said.
“It seemed like my whole life growing up, basketball, baseball, I was always right behind him, so I think it’s funny I got drafted by the same team he did, just because it seems like I’ve been half a step behind him my whole life.”
Others who’s name has been called in the MLB draft include Jeff Ridgway, drafted in 1999 in the 14th round by Tampa Bay, who went on to play in the big leagues for the Rays and the Atlanta Braves.
There’s also Matt Lane, picked by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 11th round of the 2006 draft after playing at the University of Washington.
And in the offseason, Uvila said he will wrap up his bachelors degree. Uvila attended the University of Washington-Tacoma while rehabbing from his elbow surgery and should graduate after winter quarter.
Congrats, Cole. Bring the heat.
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]