Subtle chuckling permeated the room. Milwaukee Brewers Amateur Scouting Director Tod Johnson smirked. Keston Hiura smiled.
Asked at a press conference Wednesday what kind of relief it was to learn he wouldn’t need surgery on his elbow, Hiura, a Valencia High graduate and Milwaukee’s No. 9 overall pick, stated the obvious.
Yes, it was a huge relief. No, his junior season, spent only as a designated hitter, wasn’t a total loss.
“I enjoy hitting, as many people know,” Hiura said, setting off the laughter, “so I was glad I was able to do that the whole season.”
Hiura’s bat, considered the best among college prospects in this draft class, helped quiet any fears the Brewers might have had about taking him in the top 10 of last week’s MLB First-Year Player Draft.
Wednesday, Milwaukee signed Hiura to a contract with a $4 million bonus, according to MLB.com’s Jim Callis.
The club has not confirmed that amount.
“It’s definitely a big day that I have been looking forward to for pretty much my whole life,” Hiura told reporters. “I can’t thank the Brewers organization enough for giving me the opportunity to play baseball and further my baseball career.”
Hiura took part in Brewers’ batting practice Wednesday at Miller Park in Milwaukee before the team played the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Hiura then slipped into a shirt, tie and jacket for the introductory press conference.
Where does the first-round pick go from here, a reporter asked.
“We’ll send him down to Arizona here for a little while to get him throwing and get him some (at-bats) down there to kind of get some rust off, if there is any,” Johnson said.
Hiura will “get ready to go” and then take live swings in the Arizona (Rookie) League, said Johnson, who also confirmed that Hiura wouldn’t need surgery on his injured elbow.
“Based on what we saw today with the doctor and looking at that, yeah, he’s good to go to return to throw,” Johnson said, “and we’ll see how that goes. As of now that’s where we are so he’s going to start a (throwing) program and get that going.”
Wednesday, Hiura got to rub shoulders with the Brewers’ big leaguers.
“I talked to Ryan Braun a little bit, Matt Garza and a few others that were in there as well,” Hiura said. “They all were very nice, and I enjoyed meeting them all.”
Brewers Area Scout Wynn Pelzer also attended Wednesday’s press conference. A reporter asked how Pelzer could be confident about Hiura’s ability to play the field without seeing it.
Pelzer said he saw encouraging defensive actions as Hiura took groundballs during warmups in Irvine, and that he “saw some video of him playing shortstop in high school.”
Hiura was the Santa Clarita Valley’s second-highest drafted player last week. Stevenson Ranch resident Hunter Greene went to the Cincinnati Reds second overall, but has yet to sign.
His pick value was $7,193,200.
Valencia High graduate Jared Oliva, a seventh-round pick, signed Tuesday with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The deal came with a $200,000 bonus, according to MLB.com.
Oliva, who batted .321 with 54 RBIs for the University of Arizona as a junior this year, will start his career at short-season Class A West Virginia in the New York-Penn League, according to MLB.com.
Oliva’s college teammate, JC Cloney, a West Ranch High grad and ninth-round pick, signed with the Kansas City Royals for a $2,500 bonus Sunday.
Cloney, a senior left-handed pitcher for Arizona this season, will start his career with the Rookie Level Burlington Royals (North Carolina) in the Appalachian League.
The Master’s University product Michael Sexton, the San Francisco Giants’ 14th-round pick, signed with the Giants on Wednesday.
Hart grad Nick Valaika, a 24th-round pick out of UCLA, signed with the Pirates on Tuesday. He will start with the Rookie Level Bristol Pirates (Virginia) in the Appalachian League.
Valencia grad Ben Fariss (39th round, Toronto Blue Jays), a UC Santa Barbara signee, told The Signal he was still “figuring things out.”
Valencia grads Colton Burns (18th round, Minnesota Twins) and Cole Kleszcz (40th round, Cleveland Indians), both of whom would play for UCSB next season if they don’t sign, had not signed as of Wednesday afternoon, according to MLB.com.
Burns told The Signal he was planning to sign with the Twins.
Chase Farrell, a recent Valencia grad and the 40th-round selection of the Houston Astros, told The Signal Wednesday he planned to attend UCLA in the fall.