Right-hander Tyler Kolek would make a three-hour roundtrip drive three days a week to work out, a dedication to his craft that caught the attention of the Miami Marlins organization.
Kolek grew up on a cattle ranch in the small town of Shepherd, Texas, but Thursday night he became the Marlins’ selection as the second overall pick in the 2014 draft.
"Kid worked all his life," said Stan Meek, Miami’s vice president of scouting. "I think he has a lot of humility, which is a great character trait for a young man in our business. That says a lot about his character and how good he wants to be."
Meek, who spoke to reporters via teleconference minutes after Commissioner Bud Selig announced Kolek’s name, was just as impressed with the January visit to see the family as the fastball, which has been clocked at 102 mph.
A 6-foot-5, 230-pounder from Shepherd High School, Kolek posted a 0.35 ERA in 10 games his senior season. He struck out 126 and walked eight in 60 1/3 innings with an upper-90s fastball and power curveball. His changeup, which Meek said he would need to soften, sits at 90 mph.
His rise through the minors is anticipated to be "fairly quick," but it all depends on his development.
Of any former or current big leaguer, Meek likened him to another Texan: Roger Clemens.
"Big, strong, physical right-hander with three pitches, and we think for a big guy he’s got solid control of his fastball, powerful breaking ball and we’ve seen the guy throw up to three digits velocity," Meek said. "Power body and a power arm and just a power package guy.
"The power of his fastball is the first thing that jumps out at you. The delivery jumps out at you. For such a big man he’s got a very quiet, easy delivery. It should equate to a plus-strike thrower."
Miami last took a high-school player in the first round of the draft in 2011: ace Jose Fernandez (14th overall) out of Braulio Alonso in Tampa. The past two years, the organization went with University of North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran (sixth overall in 2012) and Oklahoma State left-hander Andrew Heaney (ninth in 2013).
As far as Texas prep stars go, the Marlins drafted lefty Aaron Thompson 22nd in 2005 and Josh Beckett second in 1999.
The Houston Astros selected Brady Aiken, a left-handed pitcher from Cathedral Catholic High School in California, with the first pick.
Until an hour before the draft, the Marlins weren’t certain whom the Astros would take. Other names in consideration were NC State left-hander Carlos Rodon, who went third to the Chicago White Sox, and prep catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson, who went sixth to the Seattle Mariners.
After more than of 100 hours scouting him in person and through national cross-checkers, the organization felt confident in not only Kolek’s on-field performance but also how he handled himself around the field and with teammates.
"We worked through a lot of things," Meek said. "We had it down to six guys we liked, then narrowed it down to four and probably the last day settled on it. Some other guys we had interest, too, but in the end we targeted this as our guy and we thought it would happen. But Houston picking first and that being his state, you always get nervous, but they got who they wanted and we feel grateful for who we got."
The Marlins also selected catcher Blake Anderson out of West Lauderdale High in Collinsville, Mississippi, with the 36th overall pick in the competitive balance round A. Anderson hit .438 with 14 doubles, eight home runs and 40 RBI during his senior season.
To close out Day 1 of the draft, Miami took shortstop Justin Twine of Falls City High in Texas. A three-sport athlete, he batted .538 with 28 runs, seven doubles, five triples, six home runs and 22 RBI. He was a state champion in the long jump and 1A Division II MVP in football.
The Marlins also have the 76th and 105th picks before rounds 4 through 40. The draft continues through Saturday.