Years ago when Steven Souza decided to push himself to become a superb baseball player, he set an imposing goal.
To make sure he reached his potential, he vowed to spend 363 days a year honing his skills. His two annual days off: Easter and Christmas.
All the long days of practice certainly seem worthwhile now.
Souza, a Cascade High School senior, was selected by the Washington Nationals with the 100th overall pick Thursday in Day 1 of the 2007 Major League Baseball draft.
“I’m speechless. I’m really excited to get going,” said Souza, a 6-foot-3 shortstop who the Nationals snared with the sixth pick of the third round.
Souza monitored the draft from his Everett home with several relatives and friends, including Cascade teammates David Benson and Matt McCorkle. The Nationals are one of numerous teams that expressed interest in Souza. Last weekend he flew to Washington, D.C. and worked out for the Nationals’ top scouts and executives.
Souza must have made quite an impression. Despite not being listed among the top 200 national prospects in Baseball America magazine’s draft preview issue, Souza was taken in the top 100 – barely.
“It’s just a moment you always dream about. It’s an honor,” said Souza, who had a .488 batting average, was 15-for-16 on stolen bases and committed one error as Cascade’s starting shortstop this spring.
Souza could give up his athletic scholarship to Washington State University if the Nationals offer him a desirable contract. He said he could receive a signing bonus in the $400,000 range based on what players chosen in the same part of the draft received in previous years.
If Souza signs a contract – his New York-based adviser is handling negotiations – he would leave for Florida June 17, a day after he graduates from high school. He would likely join the Gulf Coast Nationals, a rookie-league team that competes in the Gulf Coast League.
“I’m excited for him. It’s a great opportunity,” said Scott Stencil, Souza’s high school coach.
Souza could follow in the footsteps of Cascade alum Grady Sizemore, starting center fielder for the Cleveland Indians, by skipping college and jumping straight to the pros. In 2000 the Montreal Expos picked Sizemore in the third round and gave him a $2 million signing bonus.
Souza’s body type might eventually make him more suited to play third base. He said he figures he’ll end up at about 6-4, 220 pounds.
No matter what position Souza ends up at, the prep senior has a lot to offer, Stencil said, citing Souza’s quick swing, impressive power, arm strength and defensive range.
“He’s got the whole package,” said Stencil. “He can do everything.”
That’s precisely what the Nationals are counting on.