It was no surprise and a major surprise, all at the same time Wednesday afternoon, as the St. Louis Cardinals selected graduate in the 23rd round of this week's Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
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Matheny (6'1, 180), the star centerfielder for the two-time Missouri Class 3 state champion Wildcats and son of Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, is one of the top-rated high school players in the country, and many thought he would be chosen sometime Tuesday -- during Rounds 4-15 of the Draft.
But instead, most likely because of the Matheny family's upfront approach with scouts during the pre-Draft process, and informing them that unless Tate was offered a hefty signing bonus, he would probably choose to play college ball instead, nobody came calling.
That is, until the 23rd round and 720th pick of the Draft came, when the Cardinals finally pulled the trigger on drafting the manager's son.
"That's so exciting," former Cardinal and current Westminster Assistant Baseball Coach Andy Benes told Patch, after hearing the Cardinals' decision to draft Tate Matheny. "I'm just excited for the whole family. I've had the privilege of coaching Tate these last two years here at Westminster, and he's just grown into such a neat young man."
Benes credits Matheny for helping the Wildcats win two state titles in the last two years.
"Tate was our best player," Benes tells Patch. "But it's just been so neat to see him grow and develop as a young man and as a player, especially because he plays the game the right way."
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The Mathenys, who are visiting dad Mike in Houston, where he managed the Cardinals in a game against the Astros Wednesday night, couldn't be reached for comment.
However, Benes, who was the No. 1 overall MLB Draft pick in 1988, and whose son Drew was picked twice in the draft, once as a high schooler by the Cincinnati Reds in 2007, and again three years later, in the 25th round by the Cardinals, said he understood what a magnificent day this must be for the Tate, Mike, and the entire Matheny clan.
"I know this has to be a very proud day for all of them," Benes said. "Tate's been around the game his whole life, and he knows you can only be drafted once you graduate high school, and then if you go to college, not until after your third year. So this is a time that he's probably dreamed about since he was a young boy. I'm so happy for him."
And Tate Matheny wasn't the only Westminster product taken in the draft on Wednesday, as 2008 grad Ben Turner (6'4, 220), a standout catcher at the University of Missouri the last four years, was picked in the 21st round by the San Francisco Giants.
"Ben's mom, Amy, called me a little while ago and told me that Ben got drafted by the Giants," Benes said Wednesday. "And that's so awesome. They were all kind of freaking out."
Benes said Turner was home for a graduation party for his brother Luke, who Benes has coached for the last two years.
"So they were all there to get the news, and they're all so excited," Benes said. He added that the Turners were celebrating Wednesday night then, Ben was getting on a plane Thursday for Scottsdale, AZ to begin his professional baseball career.
For the Turners, the decision was easy. Ben Turner is done at Mizzou, and will hopefully make an easy transition to pro ball.
For the Mathenys though, the decision process is just beginning.
It was reported just Wednesday, But with the news that the team taking him is managed by his dad, that might change the likely St. Louis-area Player of the Year's mind.
"If it were any other team, then I'm sure he'd just go ahead and go play at Missouri State, which has got a wonderful program," Benes said. "But with it being his dad, and not just that, but his hometown team the Cardinals, that's got to throw a monkey wrench in the plans."
Players taken in this year's Draft have until July 13 to sign with the team that picked them. If they don't, they would be ineligible to sign with another team, but in Tate Matheny's case, and other high school players like him, he could simply go on and play in college, but he would then not be eligible for the Draft again until after his third college year.
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