Cathedral Catholic’s Brady Aiken Number 1 MLB pick, drafted by the Houston Astros

By Rob LeDonne

Brady Aiken, the Cathedral Catholic High School senior who seemed destined for greatness throughout his young baseball career, hit the national spotlight after getting drafted by the Houston Astros as the number one draft pick in the United States last week. Broadcast live on MLB Television and reported on by sports media worldwide, Aiken instantly became one of the most recognizable names in baseball (and a national trending topic on Twitter), when he was announced as the number one prospect in the country after years of honing his craft and months of rumors about his ranking.

Gary Remiker, Aiken’s (now former) baseball coach at Cathedral Catholic, was one of many in North County watching as Aiken suddenly turned from a Southern California sports star to a national one.

“I was sitting on the couch watching it on TV with my wife and my assistant coach, and when they announced Brady’s name we all started cheering,” Remiker said. “There was a lead up to that moment for weeks; until they announced he was actually number one we were all cautiously optimistic, nervous, and excited all at once. I think it’s pretty safe to say that this will never again happen in my career.”

Being named number one is a double honor for Aiken, considering only two high school pitchers have been taken first in the entire history of the modern draft (which dates back to 1965). In addition, 17-year-old Aiken is initially set to make upwards of $8 million (which is a bonus “slot” payment the number one pick receives). Aiken beat out a nation full of hot baseball prospects to attain the number one ranking, including Tyler Kolek (a Texas-born pitcher who’s headed for the Miami Marlins) and Carlos Radon (another pitcher headed for the Chicago White Sox from North Carolina).

“These past few months for Brady and his family have been chaotic to say the least,” Remiker said. “There were 30 MLB teams who wanted to meet him to find out what he’s like and how he handles himself. There were media outlets who were trying to get interviews with him and book photo shoots, and all of it was very taxing on his time. Throughout it all, he did an amazing job handling everything. For me as a coach, there was more demand for my time this year than there’s ever been before. I tried to treat it as a special opportunity instead of a burden, and I imagine Brady felt the same way. I’m sure it will be like this for him for years to come.”

The next step for Brady and his team is to hammer out a contract with the Astros (for now, only a verbal agreement is in place). Once that’s complete, he’ll join the short-season rookie league, and then it’s into the minors next season. According to Remiker, for a high school pitcher it “typically takes four to five years to go from the minors to majors.” With that timeline (which includes a plethora of variables in between), Aiken should be ready for his major league debut by the year 2018, give or take. In a recent interview with ESPN, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said: “(He’s) the most advanced high school pitcher I’ve ever seen in my entire career. He has command like I’ve never seen before of his stuff.”

“Throughout this season, I’ve tried as much as I can to enjoy everything,” said Remiker, who noted the intense scrutiny on the Cathedral Catholic baseball team this year. “I had the best seat in the house for all of his starts. Based on natural talent alone, he’d be one of the better pitchers in San Diego. However, that can only get you so far, because what set Brady apart was his work ethic. He’d get up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym for conditioning, would always take great care of his body, and he constantly avoided many of the temptations a senior in high school may come across.”

When speaking to ESPN after getting drafted, Aiken was understandably emotional, saying the moment was “Unbelievable. It’s really a dream come true. This is something that I’ve wanted ever since I was a young kid. I’m at a loss for words. This is my dream and it’s finally starting to come true.”