The UNC junior pitcher was snatched up by the Oakland Athletics with the 66th overall pick.
Sitting on his couch in his house in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Tyler Baum’s full attention is on the television right in front of him.
He watches as the the 2019 MLB Draft unfolds, waiting for that one moment he’s been dreaming of his whole life — hearing his name called.
Earlier on the afternoon of Monday, June 3, Baum was hanging out with his teammates to watch as fellow Tar Heel baseball player Michael Busch was drafted to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But now he was at home, waiting for what felt like an eternity. Luckily for Baum, the moment finally came.
“I thought there might be a chance that I got picked, and one of my roommates … he was like, ‘What are the chances you get picked?,’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t know if it’s going to happen,’” Baum said. “Literally five minutes later I got a text from my agent saying, ‘Hey, start watching — you may go around here.’ So then I said, ‘Luca! Luca! Come back down here.’
“Then they called my name and it was awesome,” he said. “All the years of hard work and dedication you put into the sport … and finally hearing your name called is a surreal moment and a big relief as well.”
Just before the Oakland Athletics picked him with the 66th overall pick during the second round, Baum gave the heads up to his family to keep an eye on the draft so that they could take in the moment with him.
And though the big moment arrived, it wasn’t a total surprise to Baum. Going into last week’s draft, Baum knew that the A’s had shown interest in him since his playing days at West Orange High. Baum said that he also had a good meeting toward the end of last year with the team.
Being selected 66th overall — a pick valued at exactly $1 million, according to MLB.com — is just the latest in a long, successful journey through the game of baseball for Baum. It’s a journey that started back when he was a kid growing up in Ocoee.
At the age of 8, Baum started playing baseball like any other kid — playing travel ball and Little League. Once in high school he would take to the field for the Warriors — while also playing for the Orlando Scorpions travel ball team — and it was there where Baum found a knack for pitching.
“I started off mostly as a centerfielder and hitter — I didn’t really start pitching until the summer going into my junior year,” Baum said. “I started throwing a little bit harder and saw my future change into a pitcher.”
Although he graduated from WOHS back in 2016, the memories he has from his time on the JV and varsity teams still remind him of where he came from and the family that formed during those four years.
“You grow up playing with those guys since you’re like, 8 or 9 — you’re on the same travel team, you’re on the same seventh-and eighth-grade feeder team and you get to high school and you’re still playing with those guys and it’s awesome,” Baum said. “Watching those guys grow and progress … is really cool.”
Since then, Baum has moved on to bigger things, which includes his last three years as a go-to starter for the Tar Heels on the diamond.
In his freshman year alone, Baum would go a perfect 7-0 with a meager ERA of 2.57 through 63 innings as a true freshman. His perfect record wrote him into the Carolina baseball history books, as he became the eighth pitcher to win at least seven decisions without a loss in a single season.
Though he would suffer a bit of a sophomore slump — going 4-1 with a 4.57 ERA — there would be a big silver lining for the second-year starter, as Baum and the Tar Heels made their way to Omaha, Nebraska, for the 2018 College World Series.
“Going to Omaha last season, it was kind of like a fairy tale,” Baum said. “All of us have heard so many stories about it and everything else, but to actually go there and experience it — with 25,000 people cheering for you and stands packed out — and hopefully I can get the chance to go back and have it again.”
While this weekend’s NCAA Super Regional against Auburn University saw Carolina’s season come to a close, the future for Baum is bright, and you can bet he is excited for it.
“I cherish these moments with my UNC teammates,” he said. “I’m going to really cherish these moments with these guys, but after that I’m unbelievably excited to start my Major League career with the Oakland A’s. Working my way up through the organization is going to be hard work, but I’m excited to do it.”