Jared Oliva and JC Cloney said what you’d expect fellow Santa Clarita Valley products and college baseball teammates to say on a day MLB teams drafted both players.
“The Pirates are lucky to have him,” Cloney said.
“The Royals are really lucky to have him,” Oliva said.
The fact that both players were drafted on the second day of the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday, however, wouldn’t necessarily have been expected several years ago.
Oliva, taken in the seventh round by the Pittsburgh Pirates, received limited at-bats as a junior and senior at Valencia High in 2012 and 2013 before walking on at the University of Arizona.
Congratulations to OF Jared Oliva; the 7th round selection of the @Pirates! #MLBTrainingGround #BearDown pic.twitter.com/0hCQ49mpIj
— Arizona Baseball (@ArizonaBaseball) June 13, 2017
Cloney, a West Ranch High grad and the ninth-round pick of the Kansas City Royals, left behind NCAA Division 1 Long Beach State for two seasons at College of the Canyons before closing his collegiate career with a pair of strong campaigns at Arizona.
“We’re pretty excited for JC,” said West Ranch coach Casey Burrill. “He’s had one heck of a journey. I’d say his path to being drafted is not the most typical or normal of paths.”
Cloney, who suffered a stress fracture in his pitching elbow as a freshman at Long Beach State and didn’t feel wanted there, according to a story on Tucson.com, transferred to COC before the Cougars’ 2014 season.
As a Cougar, he won 14 games over two seasons, posting ERAs of 2.36 and 2.40, respectively.
At Arizona, Cloney went 8-4 with a 2.45 ERA in 2016, pitching a complete-game four-hitter in the College World Series. The lefty came back with a 3.11 ERA this year as a senior.
“He doesn’t hurt himself,” Burrill said. “He doesn’t groove pitches and stays out of middle of the plate.”
Cloney said he had a 30-minute conversation with a Royals area scout before the season and that they’d communicated again around the time the season ended and after Tuesday’s eighth round.
Hearing he’d likely go somewhere between the sixth and 10th rounds, Cloney waited to hear his name inside his family’s Castaic home.
Royals draft @ArizonaBaseball LHP JC Cloney. Not overpowering, but one hell of a competitor. Sparkled in Omaha: https://t.co/bGIMIshm9K
— Michael Lananna (@mlananna) June 13, 2017
Then the moment came.
“My mom started screaming. My dad had that subtle grin on his face,” Cloney said. “I think he was a little in shock at first. Then he jumped up and gave me a hug.”
“I don’t think my heart has stopped racing,” he said. “And I think it’s been about an hour and a half.”
Oliva kept tabs on the draft’s second day at his house in Tucson with his family, girlfriend and teammates.
“With all Arizona’s done for me, it only seemed appropriate to be in Tucson for the draft,” he said.
Oliva said that the Pirates had called him after Monday’s first, second and competitive balance rounds and talked about potentially picking him Tuesday. Other teams contacted him, too, as the draft progressed, but he remained on the board.
Then restlessness turned to relief. The center fielder said he was pleased with the way it played out.
“I couldn’t be happier,” said Oliva, who said he planned to drive back to Santa Clarita today or Thursday and unload his belongings before heading out.
He said he planned to travel a lot in the next few days.
At Valencia High, Oliva saw limited playing time as a junior and senior.
He said Tuesday that he had “a little different story” than most Division 1 standouts, but he “always knew he could be an impact player and help out a school.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Oliva said of being at Arizona. “It’s my dream school. It’s really special. I’m going to miss it.”
And it’s going to miss him. After two seasons of batting below .300, Oliva tweaked his mechanics so that his dominant eye locked in better on pitches.
The change helped his plate discipline and propelled him to All-Pac-12 honors this season.
Oliva hit .321 with four home runs and 54 RBIs.
He is a semifinalist for the Gregg Olson Award, given to the national breakout college player of the year.
“He definitely used (not playing in high school) as motivation,” said Valencia coach Mike Killinger, who was an assistant with the program at the time. “Not every kid can overcome tough situations, but he definitely was able to.”