Experts had linked the Atlanta Braves and Royal Palm Beach HS catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (salt-uh-lah-MAH-kia) before the 2003 MLB Draft even began, but it almost didn't happen.
Jarrod had braced himself not to go in the first round, expecting to go anywhere in the first two round, but once the draft got started, his phone started to ring.
First, it was the Marlins at #16 who was looking at him and close to taking him.
Then, it was the Yankees at #27, who have a switch hitting backstop of their own at the big league level.
The Indians were close, but passed at #31.
The Braves two picks were coming, at #35 and #36. And Jarrod was hopeful.
"My brother and I have always been big Braves fans," said the now Braves property, who goes by the moniker "Salty Dog". "They are a first class organization all the way and we were hoping they would take me."
But the Braves weren't anxious to take Jarrod in the supplemental round (They wanted him at #43), though there had been interest from other teams even earlier than their picks. But when it was learned that the Brewers at #39 would definitely take him, the Braves blinked and made the Salty Dog their second pick in the draft, #36 overall.
"It's (the time since the pick) has been overwhelming to me and my family, going into the Braves system," said Jarrod. "It's nice to know that they wanted me enough to go ahead and take me with the earlier pick."
His dad, John, said that it was "like a dream."
The young Saltalamacchia was so eager to get started with the Braves, in fact, that he has been signed, sealed, and will now be delivered to mini-camp on Friday.
Laughed the eager catcher, "I would have gone yesterday if they had wanted me to."
Jarrod has never been taught the catcher position and has had to lean on the teachings of others like his brother, Justin, who was a senior this past year with the UNC Greensboro Spartans.
"Justin has really helped me", explained Salty. "And if I had to pick a major leaguer that I would like to emulate, it would probably be Jason Kendall because of his grit, talent, and handling of a staff."
In fact, Jarrod lists as his strengths the ability to call and control a game, his defense, his value as a teammate, and his ability to switch hit.
When asked about the deficiencies in his game, and what he wanted to work on, Jarrod said that "There is always room to improve, no matter what level you are on. I want to work on all of my skills."
The Braves have selected a number of catchers in the 2003 draft, but it unlikely if many of them share the same combination of enthusiasm for playing for the Braves (a running theme in the first day of these proceedings) and the talent to possibly be one of the best.
Jason Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on the FanHome/BravesCenter Braves Message Board.
BRAVESCENTER.COM INTERVIEW: JARROD SALTALAMACCHIA
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