Mackenzie Gore was supposed to be a member of the East Carolina Pirates in 2018. Instead, he's bunking with ECU head baseball coach Cliff Godwin while waiting for his first MLB Spring Training to begin.
"It's been nice but not being able to play with the guys in my class who I thought I'd play with for at least two years has been tough." Gore said during a recent visit to the Wilson Hot Stove Baseball Banquet. "I have great relationships in Greenville so it was tough, but everything has worked out."
That's an understatement.
As the third overall pick in the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft Gore became the highest pick from the area since Trot Nixon was selected seventh by the Boston Red Sox in 1993. A high salary came with the high pick. The San Diego Padres agreed to a 6.7 million dollar signing bonus, the most it has ever given a draftee.
"We had time to sit down with him and his family, to talk to him and be at pretty much every outing he made up until the last state outing that he made." said Padres Executive Vice President & General Manager A.J. Preller. "We felt we knew him as well as anybody in the draft and we felt he was as talented as any left handed high school pitching prospect that we've seen over the last ten years"
Gore walked that walk during rookie ball in the Arizona League where he finished the 56-game season with a 1.27 ERA striking out 34 batters in 21 innings of work.
"He's the type of athlete that can repeat actions." said Mark Conner, Padres Director of Amateur Scouting. "You watch him and his body control is exceptional and all of that translates on to the mound and he let's his athleticism flow."
Gore isn't alone when it comes to expectations in the Padres farm, Bleacher Report ranks the Padres' system fourth overall in Major League Baseball. Because of that Gore could earn an invitation to join the parent club for spring training when it begins in February.
"As of right now I'm working out, February 19th is my report date and we'll take it from there." Gore said. "This year is kind of my own offseason, it's just me, nobody telling me what to do, now it's my job."
A high profile job to say the least, but the money and notoriety that comes with being what some have called "the greatest prospect to ever come through the league" haven't taken the small town out of Mackenzie Gore.
"I was never a guy who went out and had a lot of fun, but everywhere I go now there's a light on me and if something happens you know it becomes national news, but not much has changed the way I carry myself." Gore said.
"I want to go up there [San Diego] and win, that's my expectation. Do whatever I can to get up there and win, but right now it's my job to take it one day at a time and get better everyday so I can get up there as quick as possible."