When Blake Tekotte was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the third round of the 2008 Major League Baseball Draft, the five-tool outfielder immediately started charting a course for the big leagues.
“Whenever I was drafted, one of my goals was to make it to the big leagues before my 24th birthday,” Tekotte said.
Two days before his 24th birthday last month, time was about to run out on his goal as the 2005 Hickman graduate was packing for a road trip to Springfield as a member of the Padres’ Double-A affiliate in San Antonio.
Then he looked at his phone and noticed a text from his minor league manager, Doug Dascenzo.
“It said, ‘911. You need to call me now,’ ” Tekotte said. “I was kind of worried.”
When Tekotte reached Dascenzo, the manager instructed him to pack his bags — something Tekotte assured his manager he was already doing for the team’s impending trip to Springfield.
“He was like, ‘No, you have a flight tomorrow morning. You’re going to San Diego,’ ” Tekotte said.
On May 23, one day before his 24th birthday, Tekotte arrived in San Diego for the start of a three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals.
His draft-day goal magically realized.
“That was pretty cool how all that went down,” Tekotte said. “I made it the day before, which is pretty crazy.”
Two weeks later, Tekotte is still living out his life-long dream as a major league baseball player.
Entering last night’s late-starting West Coast game against Houston, Tekotte had appeared in nine games for the Padres with five starts. The left-handed-swinging outfielder was batting only .167 (3 for 18), but his big league arrival has coincided with a recent surge by the last-place NL West Padres — who had won five of their last seven games entering last night.
“These past two weeks have been awesome,” Tekotte said. “It’s been everything I dreamed it would be and then some.”
Tekotte watched his first two games from the dugout before Padres Manager Bud Black called on him to make his big league debut on May 25 as a pinch hitter with one out in the eighth inning of a tie game against the Cardinals.
The experience was surreal as Tekotte stepped into the batter’s box to face Chris Carpenter, who won the National League Cy Young award with the Cardinals the same year Tekotte graduate high school.
“I walked up to the box and saw” Cardinals catcher Yadier “Molina right there and looked up and saw Carp — that was pretty cool,” Tekotte said. “I’ve watched them on TV the last couple years, and you realize that I finally got my opportunity to come up here and show what I can do.”
On the second pitch he saw, Tekotte ripped a line-drive to right field that Jon Jay — a college teammate of Tekotte’s at Miami, Fla. — snagged for the second out.
Tekotte would have to wait three more days before getting his first big league hit, but he made it worth his wait.
With nine family members traveling to Washington, D.C. for a series with the Nationals, Tekotte went 2 for 3 with an RBI triple and a run scored in a 2-1 Padres’ win on May 28.
Tekotte’s day of firsts was made even more special because his family was celebrating the first birthday of his nephew Alec. The family had planned a birthday celebration in Springfield while Tekotte was to be in town with his minor league team, but the party was moved to D.C. when he got called up to the Padres.
“I kind of had to ruin the plans, but I guess in a good way,” Tekotte said.
His first major league road trip also provided some lasting memories off the field. Among Tekotte’s rookie responsibilities, he had to carry the suit of second baseman Orlando Hudson, haul drinks onto the team bus after games and even offer musical entertainment to his teammates by singing a tune.
Tekotte belted out “All My Life” by K-Ci & JoJo to what he said were favorable reviews.
“I did a good job,” Tekotte said, “so I don’t have to go back up there and do it again.”
With his playing and singing debuts out of the way, Tekotte is trying to settle into what he hopes will be a long major league career.
Tekotte is now under a major league contract that will pay him the league minimum while he’s with the Padres and a modified — but still substantial — amount if he were to return to the minors.
Of course, Tekotte hopes he won’t be returning to the minors any time soon. He and fellow rookie infielder Logan Forsythe were actually apartment shopping this week during the Padres’ recent home stand.
Although he realizes his position with the big club isn’t guaranteed, Tekotte explained that the apartment search is just another rookie rite.
“The team puts you up” in a hotel “for seven nights before you have to go find your own place to live,” Tekotte said.
San Diego, with its surf and sun, certainly wouldn’t be a bad place to call home. Tekotte said he’s doing everything he can to make a good impression with his coaches and teammates to keep his roster spot.
A recent conversation with his new manager indicated to Tekotte that he’s going about things the right way.
“Buddy was walking with me the other day, and he told me he really liked my work ethic and to keep working hard,” Tekotte said. “That was comforting to hear.
“I’ve been hearing a lot that it’s easier to get up here than to stay up here, so I just have to work even harder than I did before.”