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La Costa Canyon’s Moniak is No. 1 MLB draft pick

Brother Collin, 16, right, mother Heather, and sister Jordan, 10, touch La Costa Canyon baseball player Mickey Moniak, 18, after it was announced that the Philadelphia Phillies selected Moniak as the No. 1 overall pick in the MLB draft Thursday.
(Hayne Palmour IV/San Diego Union-Tribune)

Mickey Moniak isn’t big on astrology.

But his horoscope in a Thursday, June 9 paper couldn’t have been more right.

“Your focus is on achieving a longtime goal,” it read. “Certain friends are well aware that you are on the verge of hitting a home run. Follow-through is imperative. . . . Tonight onward to the next step.”

Hours after the paper hit the family driveway on June 9, Moniak was chosen by the Philadelphia Phillies as the first player taken in the Major League Baseball Draft.

The 18-year-old La Costa Canyon High School standout is the fifth San Diego County player to go No. 1 overall. And he’s just the sixth high school outfielder since 1980 to be taken with the first pick.

“Every kid dreams of playing in the big leagues, but to go No. 1 overall is insane,” said Moniak, who played some of his earliest baseball in Encinitas National Little League. “To share this with my family and friends is awesome.”

More than 100 family members and friends gathered at the home of Bill and Julie Gage, Mickey’s uncle and aunt.

By Mickey’s side when the Phillies called his name was cousin Tanner Gage, who was paralyzed from the waist down after a fall from a Santa Barbara cliff in 2014.

“It was important to me to have Tanner with me,” Moniak said.

The Phillies loved Moniak’s baseball tools, his .476 batting average as a senior at La Costa Canyon, his seven home runs, San Diego Section-record 12 triples and his gap-to-gap defense in center field.

“When you pick No. 1, you pick human beings as well as players,” said Phillies General Manager Matt Klentak. “You have to look at the player’s makeup. Mickey’s makeup is off the charts.”

Still, the Phillies and Bill Moniak, Mickey’s father, were talking on the phone up until five minutes before the start of the draft.

“We knew the Colorado Rockies would take Mickey with the fourth pick if he was still there,” Bill Moniak said. “So we had that comfort zone.

“The Phillies, obviously, were very interested. We agreed on a deal, and that was it.”

MLB’s predetermined slot for the No. 1 overall pick’s signing bonus is about $9 million, though Moniak’s figure is believed to be closer to $7 million.

Moniak, a 6-foot-2, 190-pounder who bats left and throws right, said he didn’t know the Phillies were taking him until the last minute.

“I was sitting in a chair, waiting to go on TV,” Moniak said. “I got a hug and a wink from my dad. I knew then it was the Phillies.”

Members of the Phillies front office saw Moniak on numerous occasions this spring.

At most of his games, there were dozens of pro scouts watching. And he performed, earning San Diego Section Player of the Year honors as well as Gatorade National Player of the Year.

Moniak also performed well for Team USA in Colombia, Japan and Taiwan.

“I thrive on the big stage,” he said. “Pressure gives me extra incentive. I’ve always been able to perform under pressure.”

Matt Moniak played at San Diego State. Bill Moniak, Mickey’s grandfather, played six years in the Boston Red Sox organization, where his hitting coach was the legendary Ted Williams, a Hoover High product.

“My dad and grandpa had a big influence on my approach at the plate,” Mickey said. “Things like what pitch to look for on certain counts. They’ve always been there for me.”

Graduation ceremonies at La Costa Canyon High were June 10.

“That makes for a pretty eventful couple of days,” Mickey said. “I want to get signed and get started on a pro career as soon as possible.

“I can’t wait to get going.”

(For the record, Moniak is a Taurus.)

— John Maffei is a writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune


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