Jake Bird was at home when he got the call.
“I was … hanging out with my little brother and my dad,” the pitcher said. “The (Colorado) Rockies called me in the morning, and I was really pumped when I saw the pick come in and see my name pop up – it was really cool.”
The senior was drafted in the fifth round of the MLB Draft Tuesday, making him the first of four current UCLA baseball players selected for the draft this year.
Junior right-hander Jon Olsen was picked in the 12th round by the Minnesota Twins, junior center fielder Daniel Amaral was picked in the 14th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates and sophomore left fielder Jeremy Ydens was picked in the 33rd round by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Bird was thought to be a sought-after prospect leading up to the 2017 draft, but concerns about his shoulder led him to go undrafted. The righty returned to Westwood for his senior season to finish his degree in economics while commuting to school from his grandfather’s house.
“I learned a lot about life,” Bird said. “Over the last year, there have been a lot of life skills I’ve learned and leadership skills from being captain this year with the new freshman group coming in.”
Due to injuries, Bird became UCLA’s Friday starter, posting a 2.18 ERA in 16 starts. Bird was named to the 2018 Google Cloud Academic All-America Third Team on Thursday, but he said that not all of his learning happened in the classroom.
“It’s been a great four years,” Bird said. “I’ve learned a ton through school and through baseball – probably equally so.”
Bird was the only Bruin picked in the first two days of the draft and the only senior of the four who had their name called.
Olsen, Amaral and Ydens will have a decision to make – return to school or play professional baseball.
Just minutes before he was drafted, Ydens said he was happy for his teammates and the progress they had made in pursuing their dreams.
“I think that’s super exciting,” the outfielder said. “Obviously that’s the dream that everyone here at UCLA has. … I’m super excited for all of them. They’re in good hands and they’re extremely talented, and I wouldn’t be surprised if all of them made it to the bigs.”
Ydens became a full-time starter this season after playing just 26 games his freshman year. He had a .350 batting average and set career highs in every statistical category. The sophomore was the final pick of the draft in 2016, but he decided to come to Westwood and play for coach John Savage.
Olsen had a 2.08 ERA in his first nine appearances of 2018, but was hit in the face by a comebacker against USC in the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic. The junior returned from the injury in April but made only two appearances before injuring his elbow and missing the rest of the season.
Despite his injury history, Savage said he saw pro potential in Olsen after his seven-inning, 80-pitch, scoreless performance against Portland on Feb. 17.
“If you can do that in the big leagues … you’ll be making, like, 25 million dollars,” Savage said.
Amaral was another Bruin who set career highs across the board this season. The Pac-12 All-Defensive center fielder had a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage, but a .185 batting average in May hurt his final numbers.
UCLA also had four commits drafted this year – infielder Matt McLain from Tustin, California, outfielder Cole Roederer from Valencia, California, infielder Jake Moberg from Murrieta, California, and pitcher Sean Mullen from Bakersfield, California. McLain was drafted 25th overall by the Diamondbacks and Roederer was taken in the second round by the Chicago Cubs, while Moberg and Mullen were selected in the 34th and 35th rounds, respectively, by the Rockies.