Professional baseball can wait for former Don

Braves draftee Moynihan puts education first

When major league baseball scouts called, Matt Moynihan put them on hold.

The recent Cathedral Catholic grad, considered one of the state’s top outfield prospects, told scouts that although he’s eager to pursue a professional baseball career, academics come first.

Moynihan, drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 37th round of Major League Baseball’s amateur draft earlier this month, plans to honor his commitment to play at University of San Diego next year.

The Braves have until Aug. 15 to sign Moynihan, per MLB draft rules.

Moynihan said USD’s reputation for academic excellence and a strong baseball tradition figured in his decision to stay close to home. The Toreros had three players in the first 16 rounds of this year’s draft.

“It’s a great program academically and athletically,” Moynihan said of USD. “You’re not just going to grow physically, you’re going to grow mentally too.”

Moynihan said he told scouts that barring a prohibitive signing bonus, it was his preference to play at USD.

Moynihan was projected to be drafted in the first three rounds, Cathedral Catholic coach Gary Remiker said, noting scouts appeared to lose interest when Moynihan’s preference to go USD became widely known.

“I think they were kind of scared about investing all this money into a kid who wasn’t really that committed, which I wasn’t because I still had that part of me that wanted to go to (college),” Moynihan said.

Moynihan was a multisport standout at Cathedral Catholic, leading the Dons to consecutive San Diego Section Div. III titles his last two years, a Div. III section title in football his junior year, and an appearance in the Div. III basketball section finals earlier this year.

Moynihan cited being part of the Dons first baseball and football championships since moving to the Carmel Valley campus his junior year among his prep career highlights.

Also high on the list was the Dons’ surprising appearance in the Div. III basketball finals in March after finishing in third place in Western League play.

The 6-foot-2 Moynihan played power forward, a position normally reserved for taller players. He led the Dons averaging 13 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

“We were definitely outmanned and outsized all year, but we had a lot of heart and that showed and that’s how we got to the finals,” Moynihan said.

Moynihan batted .430 (37 for 86) with four homers, five triples and 21 RBI. He was tied for the team’s lead in runs scored (45) and stolen bases (19) with two-sport standout Tyler Gaffney, who’s headed to Stanford on a football scholarship.

Moynihan and Gaffney are among the best athletes on a program whose alumni includes three current major leaguers (Carlos Quentin, Barry Zito and Mark Prior), Remiker said.

Moynihan’s combination of speed, size and power makes him a uniquely attractive prospect, Remiker said.

“He’s one of the fastest kids in the country,” Remiker said. “That alone gives him a good chance to make it to the big leagues. Speed doesn’t go into a slump.”

Moynihan said he believes the collegiate experience will help him develop into a more mature and well-rounded person, which ultimately will pay dividends when he pursues a professional baseball career.

He is spending the summer playing for the Wenatchee (Wash.) AppleSox in the West Coast League.

“I think learning how to deal with some failure will definitely help me,” Moynihan said. “I’ve definitely seen (college) players grow mentally in how they approach the game.”