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San Diego Padres pick Jonny Homza of Anchorage in 5th round of MLB draft

Anchorage's Jonny Homza celebrated his 18th birthday by going pro.

Picked by the San Diego Padres in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball draft Tuesday, Homza said he will accept the team's contract offer.

"It's a dream come true," he said.

Homza, a two-time Alaska Gatorade Player of the Year, recently led the South Wolverines to a runner-up finish at the state high school tournament and has spent the last two weeks with the Anchorage Bucs of the Alaska Baseball League.

He said he'll leave Alaska in a couple of days to report to a San Diego rookie league team in Arizona.

"I'm really excited to get started and to play every day," he said.

Homza wouldn't say how much he signed for, but fifth-round signing money should be in the six-figure range.

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Of the 30 players selected in last year's fifth round, all but two reportedly received $243,000 or more for signing, according to a report by mlb.com.

"I was talking to the Padres as the draft was going on, and they kinda asked if they took me in the fifth round and offered a certain amount, would I sign.

"… I was ready to sign."

[Homza's bat, arm lead South to state crown]

Homza is a 6-foot-1, 180-pounder who bats and throws right-handed. He was drafted as an infielder, although he made a name for himself in high school and American Legion baseball as both a pitcher and an infielder.

Though no official record exists, it is believed that Homza is one of four Alaskans to be picked in the fifth round or higher.

Brian Montalbo of Anchorage was a fifth-round pick by Atlanta in 2000, Matt Way of Sitka was a fifth-round pick by Philadelphia in 2009 and Dylan Baker of Juneau was a fifth-round pick by Cleveland in 2012.

The only other players to go in the 10th round or higher are Anchorage's Trajan Langdon (sixth round, San Diego, 1994) and Juneau's Chad Bentz (seventh round, Montreal, 2001).

Of that group, all were pitchers except Homza and Langdon.

Tony Wylie, a manager for the Alaska Baseball Academy who has been involved with baseball in Alaska since 1982, raves about Homza's talents.

"He's is the best (position) player that I have seen since Trajan Langdon," Wylie said.

During this year's Cook Inlet Conference 14-game season, Homza batted .560 with 28 runs, 19 stolen bases and 14 RBIs.

Wylie said Homza possesses a textbook swing. At the state tournament earlier this month at Mulcahy Stadium, Wylie saw Homza hit a deep home run to left field that cleared the flag pole "and had to be close to the goal post" at the adjacent Anchorage Football Stadium.

"If I wanted to instruct my kids that I'm instructing now on every single piece of hitting — from how they set up to how they're quiet in the box to how they use their lower body and don't waste energy — I would show them a video clip of him. His swing is exactly what we try to teach," Wylie said.

Wylie said Homza honed his hitting by working with older brother Willy, who just finished his sophomore season with the Brown University baseball team.

He began garnering interest from college coaches and major league scouts on his first trip to a showcase event with the Alaska Baseball Academy as a sophomore in the fall of 2014, Wylie said.

During his junior year he continued to turn heads in a series of exhibition games in the Lower 48.

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"He was facing guys throwing mid-90s fastballs, and everybody else is having a tough time and he's up there just hitting ropes," Wylie said. "Someone said, 'This kid's not really from Alaska, right?' And I said, 'He's from Alaska, plus he's only a junior.' "

Homza has sparked South's high school and Legion teams with his bat, his play at shortstop and third base and his pitching arm. But don't be surprised to see him crouched behind the plate for the Padres.

"They might actually convert me to catcher," said Homza, who San Diego is most interested in his batting abilities. "Whatever it takes."

South Wolverines coach Taylor Nerland said the whatever-it-takes attitude is one of Homza's many attributes.

"The Padres … talked about possibly moving him to catcher, and Jonny went and got a catcher's mitt and wanted to catch batting practice," Nerland said. "He's the type of kid who will do anything.

"… He's never satisfied. He could hit a laser beam to shortstop and be out, and he'd be upset. You could tell him, 'That was a good at-bat,' and he'd think, 'The next time I'm gonna get it.' He's never satisfied. He always wants to get on base."

The first two rounds of the draft were held Monday. Rounds three through 10 were Tuesday, with rounds 11 through 40 scheduled for Wednesday. About 1,200 players will be selected, and many in the later rounds won't sign.

Homza said he watched Tuesday's draft online with his dad. He said he expected to be drafted but wasn't sure "if it would be in the fifth or the 15th round."

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Nerland said he was at a meeting Tuesday morning when he received a text from the Padres. They were seeking biographical information on Homza, which to Nerland meant his star player had been drafted.

He went to Twitter to find out more and saw that Homza was the third player picked in the fifth round.

"I thought, oh man, holy cow," he said.

Beth Bragg

Beth Bragg wrote about sports and other topics for the ADN for more than 35 years, much of it as sports editor. She retired in October 2021. She's contributing coverage of Alaskans involved in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

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