RIVERVIEW — Anthony Ferrara knew he had entered a different world when it was announced that players would be fined for being late to practice.
"That didn't happen in high school," Ferrara said, laughing. "This is a business and these guys treat it that way."
But when being a professional baseball player has consumed your dreams for as long as you can remember, you're ready for the rigors that come with being a rookie in the minor leagues.
Ferrara, a left-handed pitcher from Riverview High, was selected in the seventh round by St. Louis in Major League Baseball's June draft. He made his first appearance for the Palm Beach Cardinals in the rookie Gulf Coast League later that month.
He did well in that first outing against the New York Mets' affiliate in Port St. Lucie, striking out two batters without allowing a hit in one inning of work. It was an adventure he'll never forget.
"I was shaking when I walked to the mound," Ferrara said. "Then my first four pitches weren't even close [to the strike zone]. The manager came out and calmed me down, told me I belonged here, and I settled down and started throwing strikes."
Ferrara had been champing at the bit to make his debut after a pulled groin muscle in the first week of practice kept him off the mound.
He said he has enjoyed it all, from his three college roommates showing him the ropes of life away from home to realizing his high school Spanish classes have come in handy understanding many of his Dominican teammates and coaches.
"It's pretty much what I expected," Ferrara said. "It's players from all over the world, and everybody here is good. The Dominican players are very intense.
"The management talks to you about staying away from steroids and what to eat to stay in shape — things you need to do to work your way up."
Through Aug. 18, Ferrara has a 2-1 record and has been credited with two saves. In 23 innings of work, he has 25 strikeouts and a 3.91 earned-run average, or ERA.
Ferrara said he calls home every day, and usually hears from friends and former Riverview teammates such as catcher Brett Clements. He's also looking to buy a truck with some of the money from his signing bonus, believed to be $150,000 to $200,000.
Ferrara has all the motivation he needs to fuel his desire to make the major leagues.
He said he was pleased where he was selected in the draft, being the 215th player of more than 1,500 chosen. However, Ferrara knew it would have been much higher if not for concerns about bicep tendonitis in his prized left shoulder suffered during his junior season at Riverview.
"I'm satisfied (with the signing bonus), it was better than what that (draft) position is slotted for," Ferrara said. "Now I have my foot in the door and am closer to my dream."
Ferrara concluded his high school career with a 19-6 record during four varsity seasons. He was 4-4 with a 2.74 ERA and 81 strikeouts in 46 innings during his senior season.
He said he's eager to prove to the Cardinals and the organizations that passed on him that he's healthy. He also passed on some advice to future draftees.
"Enjoy all the accolades, but don't listen to those mock drafts and what people are writing and saying because it's a totally different story come draft day," Ferrara said. "Everything changes. Nothing really goes as planned beyond the first pick."