As a senior at Bishop McLaughlin two years ago, Nate Pearson was an impressive 9-1 with 109 strikeouts in 72 innings. But he was not drafted. Two years and two colleges later, Pearson was taken in the first round of Monday night's Major League Baseball draft.
Pearson, a 6-foot-6, 245-pound right-hander, was selected 28th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays. He is the first Tampa Bay area prospect, along with Alex Faedo (Alonso/UF) earlier in the night, to be drafted in the first round since Plant's Kyle Tucker went fifth overall by the Astros in 2015.
Pearson did not pitch as a junior due to a broken bone in his pitching arm. After his senior season, he went to Florida International. In 18 appearances at FIU, Pearson struck out 33 in 32 ⅓ innings. He said he didn't quite fit in at FIU and decided to transfer closer to home at the College of Central Florida in Ocala. He pitched 81 innings as a starter, struck out 118 and had a 1.56 ERA.
Bishop McLaughlin coach Jeff Swymer was part of the draft celebration Monday night at Pearson's house, where more than 100 people gathered.
"Proud is an understatement," Swymer said. "The cool thing for me is that I've seen him when he was down in the dumps and he was unsure if he was ever going to get back to where he was. And he worked so hard to get back. That's the part that I'll always remember."
In workouts for scouts a few weeks ago, Pearson topped 100 mph on several pitches.