At the tender age of seven, Tevin Mitchell remembers turning to his parents, Raymond and Angela, with a bold statement.
“I want to be a professional baseball player.”
Just more than 15 years later, the UCSB senior saw his dream come true, being taken by the Miami Marlins in the eighth round of the MLB Draft — one of five Gauchos taken Tuesday afternoon.
Pacing alongside his brother, Trey, and his parents at the Courtyard by Marriott, the entire family waited patiently for the 231st pick to come.
“It was a blur after that,” said Mitchell, who returned to UCSB for his senior season, a risk considering many seniors lose bargaining power in a draft. But his .277 average and ability to play all over the field attracted many scouts each weekend.
“I hugged my brother first, it was a special moment for the entire family. They’ve supported me since I was seven with this dream. It’s amazing that it came true.”
Mitchell was also excited for his teammates that went before him, including Chris Lincoln (5th round, 143rd overall, San Diego Padres), Ben Brecht (5th round, 158th overall, Tampa Bay Rays), Eric Yang (7th round, 204th overall, Cincinnati Reds) and Armani Smith (7th round, 206th overall, San Francisco Giants).
The hard-throwing right-hander had experienced the thrill of being drafted before, going in the 13th round to the Toronto Blue Jays coming out of high school.
Instead of taking the opportunity as an 18-year-old, Lincoln made a bet on himself — he could get better and improve his draft position.
Being the first Gaucho chosen at No. 143 by the San Diego Padres proved that he made the right decision.
“I have no complaints about coming to college. We won a lot of games this past year, it was a lot of fun,” Lincoln said. “We won more than 40 games, broke a bunch of school records. It was a blast. This team was incredible.”
Lincoln spent time as both a starter and closer for the Gauchos, including 13 saves this past season, one off the single-season school record.
He’s open to either role at the next level.
“I just want to help the San Diego Padres organization move forward,” Lincoln said. “That’s the first time I’ve said that. That’s pretty cool.”
A subject of attention by dozens of scouts all season long, the southpaw was rewarded for his 10-2 record by going No. 158 overall to Tampa Bay. He also led the Big West Conference with 101 strikeouts.
He hit double-digit strikeouts twice during the season, including a career-high 11 at Tulane in early March.
Needless to say, his phone wouldn’t stop ringing or pinging with family and friends congratulating the junior on his next step.
“Absolutely overwhelmed with joy and excitement for what’s to come,” Brecht said.
A year ago this time, Yang didn’t know where his baseball career was headed.
After hitting .368 this season for the Gauchos, it landed him the 204th overall pick and a spot in the Cincinnati Reds organization.
“If you were to tell me a year ago that I would be in this situation today, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Yang said.
A finalist for the Buster Posey Collegiate Catcher of the Year award, Yang kept a close eye on guys that were taken in earlier rounds, hoping that his wait would end on Day 2 of the draft.
“It’s a big relief, that’s for sure,” Yang said. “I’m super excited, I couldn’t be more thankful.”
Former UCSB hurler Noah Davis is also in the Reds’ minor-league system, with Yang quickly touching base with him, both hoping to become teammates again.
But, on Tuesday, Yang celebrated with his current teammates, hanging out with Lincoln and McClain O’Connor before driving over to Armani Smith’s house when he was taken two picks after Yang.
And while his professional career awaits, Yang and the Gauchos are first focused on finishing finals the next two weeks.
“Checks says we have to pass our classes, otherwise it hurts the program,” said Yang, referring to UCSB coach Andrew Checketts.
This is also the second time that the five-tool player was drafted, the first time in 2016 by the Cleveland Indians in the 35th round. Instead, Smith chose to come to Santa Barbara, where he had 19 home runs and 98 RBIs over three seasons — paying off by becoming the 206th overall pick by the San Francisco Giants.
His 2019 campaign was impressive, hitting .323 with 11 home runs and 45 RBIs — while also compiling eight triples, one off the single-season school record.
With San Francisco picking him up, he also will play for his hometown team, with Smith hailing from Martinez.
Eight Foresters drafted so far
The day after Josh Jung was taken with the eighth overall pick by the Texas Rangers, the Santa Barbara Foresters saw seven more former players get picked up on Day 2 of the draft, including:
• Spencer Steer (2017), third round, Minnesota Twins
• Brandon Lewis (2018), fourth round, Los Angeles Dodgers
• Evan Kravetz (2017), fifth round, Cincinnati Reds
• Luke Ritter (2017-18), seventh round, New York Mets
• Blair Henley (2017), seventh round, Houston Astros
• David Hamilton (2017), eighth round, Milwaukee Brewers
• Nathan Wiles (2017), eighth round, Tampa Bay Rays
Foresters skipper Bill Pintard was not only proud of his program, but also the stellar day Santa Barbara had overall.
“Great day for our Foresters and the Gauchos,” Pintard said. “Seeing these young men get a chance to start ‘living the dream’ and achieve a goal of playing professional baseball. It’s a proud moment for both our programs.”