BOSTON — The first time is special. It’s even more special when you’re the center of attention.
Trey Ball, who the Red Sox drafted in the first round (seventh overall) of this year’s MLB draft, arrived at Fenway Park for the first time on Wednesday. The 18-year-old officially signed with the organization just hours prior, and he showed up to the ballpark with a big smile, realizing that he might soon call the place home if all goes according to plan.
“It feels amazing. This is a dream come true,” said Ball, who is the Red Sox’ highest draft pick since Trot Nixon was selected seventh back in 1993. “Growing up, all I wanted to be was a baseball player. Being able to potentially fulfill that is a great honor.”
At 6-foot-6 and 175 pounds, Ball brings a big frame and a big arm in addition to the big smile. He was the top draft-eligible left-handed pitching prospect, according to Baseball America, and he was named the Gatorade Indiana Baseball Player of the Year after a senior season in which he went 6-0 with a 0.76 ERA, 93 strikeouts and 13 walks in 46 innings.
Ball will report to the Gulf Coast League Red Sox in Fort Myers next week, at which point he’ll begin his quest toward the majors. The southpaw already got a taste of The Show during his brief visit to Fenway on Wednesday, though.
“Dustin Pedroia was like, ‘Hurry up so I can retire!’ and all that,” Ball said. “He was giving me a hard time, but it was a good time.”
Ball, who sat in the dugout wearing No. 24, understands that he has a lot to prove before pitching at Fenway Park as a member of the Red Sox becomes a reality, but it’s hard to overlook his potential. The Red Sox ultimately felt that he was the best player available while selecting their highest draft pick in 20 years.
“When we sort of go through the checklist of things we need to see in a high school pitcher to invest a first-round pick in, he just checks all the boxes,” general manager Ben Cherington said. “He’s big. He’s athletic. We got to know him really well. This is a good kid, great work ethic, highly competitive. He’s got the makings of three pitches. Obviously, it’s a high school pitcher, so it’s not going to be a particularly quick path, but we think he has a chance to be really good one day and we’re excited about watching him.”
John Farrell won’t have an opportunity to manage Ball for a while, but he also sounded excited when talking about the pitcher’s make-up. Despite the brevity of Wednesday’s meet-and-greet, the Red Sox skipper liked what he saw from the young hurler.
“To his credit, he handled it great,” Farrell said. “An 18-year-old who walks in, in a jacket and tie, who obviously comes from a good family, you could see that. He did his family proud, given what he heard.
“I’m sure he’s starting to realize a dream come true,” Farrell added. “His responses to questions, his ability to interact with a lot of people that one, he doesn’t know all that well or may know only by name, he handled himself well. This is a beginning of what hopefully is a long and successful journey for him.”
The journey started at Fenway Park on Wednesday. It’s now up to Ball to make sure that the journey returns to Fenway at some point.