For the past month, Marvin Ridge senior Max Wotell has lived his childhood dreams on and off the baseball field.
It started when Wotell was named N.C. Gatorade Player of the Year on May 28.
Then, on June 6, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound left-hander led his Marvin Ridge baseball team to a 3A state title, sweeping Charles B. Aycock two games to none in the championship series.
Wotell, who pitched a one-hitter in Game 1, earned the championship series’ MVP honors.
Wotell went 14-0 on the season with a 0.52 earned-run average and 145 strikeouts in 81.1 innings of work.
But his June kept getting better.
On June 9, Wotell was picked in the third round (88th overall) of the Major League Baseball draft by the New York Mets.
Being drafted in the third round made Wotell’s decision to go straight to the professional ranks a foregone conclusion. Wotell originally had signed to play next season with the University of Arizona.
“This whole month has been kind of like a dream,” said Wotell, who marked another major milestone when he graduated from Marvin Ridge on June 12. “Everything that has happened is all still a little surreal to me. I don’t think it will all sink in for a while. I’ll blink and this summer will be over.… I’m really excited that baseball is now my full-time job. To get the opportunity to play baseball for a living is something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s a great opportunity and now I have to go and take advantage of it.”
Wotell began his professional journey June 16, when he and his father, Gene, mother, Terri, and younger brother, Jake, traveled to New York City. They took in a Mets-Toronto Blue Jays game at Citi Field that night.
The next day, Max got his physical and signed with the Mets.
Wotell received a signing bonus well above the $660,000 slot his third round pick afforded, according to Gene Wotell.
He also has a clause in his contract that states that if he decides he wants to go back to college, the Mets will pay eight semesters of out-of-state tuition.
For now, however, Wotell has begun working out with fellow draftees at the Mets’ spring training facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
While Wotell already throws a 94 mph fastball, he is eager to soak up every minute of the experience this summer and continue to improve.
“My take on this game is that you can never be satisfied with where you are now,” said Wotell, who was contacted by 22 Major League Baseball teams, with eight coming to his home for visits, including the Mets. “I’m as competitive a person as they come, so I won’t change the way I’ve done things my whole life. I’m just going to go out and do it in a Mets’ uniform.
“I will have to start at the (rookie league) and work my way up, step by step, but I’m looking forward to the challenge of being a professional baseball player, and my goal is to get back to the (major leagues).”
Wotell will come home in August before reporting back to Port St. Lucie in October for the Instructional League.
While it might seem like a lot to handle for an 18-year-old, Wotell and those closest to him say they believe he is ready for the challenge.
“Max has a lot of experience and has played on a lot of big stages in his career already, like with Team USA, so I don’t think he’s going to be intimidated by anything,” Gene Wotell said. “I think he’s been ready for this opportunity for a long time.”
Marvin Ridge baseball coach Mark Mennitt agrees.
“Max has matured so much in the last four years and played in a lot of big baseball games, so I think he’s as ready as anyone to be a professional,” Mennitt said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s playing for the Mets in three or four years. Nothing he accomplishes will surprise me. Nothing would make me happier than to see him become a star in the Major Leagues.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.