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Dillon Tate on fast-track to MLB

As if we needed a reminder that members of the Wolfpack are capable of moving on to great things, UC Santa Barbara starting pitcher and 2012 Claremont High School alumnus Dillon Tate was fourth pick in the MLB draft earlier this month.

On June 10, Tate agreed to join forces with the Texas Rangers, garnering a $4.2 million signing bonus. He will first report to Washington, where he will hone his skills as a member of the Spokane Indians, which serves as a farm team for the Rangers. He is projected to become part of the Texas rotation in a year or two.

Tate, 21, was an ace pitcher while at CHS, but it wasn’t always clear he would have a career in professional baseball.

He went undrafted upon graduation, and didn’t receive scholarship offers to any schools with College World Series titles credentials. After enrolling at UCSB, he became a member of the Gauchos baseball team. He pitched only three innings as a freshman, but spent the following summer hard at work at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton.

Practice makes perfect, or at least promising. During his sophomore year, Tate became the Gauchos’ closer, posting 12 saves and a 1.45 earned run average. Last year he was promoted to starter status, with his season showing including a 2.26 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 103 innings.

In May, he became UCSB’s first-ever Golden Spikes semifinalist. The athlete received other kudos for his standout junior season. Tate was named a Louisville Slugger All-American and the D1 Baseball Midseason Pitcher of the year, and was a 2015 All-Big West First Team selection.

“He’s a kid who was kind of a nobody coming out of high school, so to speak,” Rangers scouting director Kip Fagg said. “He worked hard, in the weight room, throwing. He made himself a prospect. Going from undrafted out of high school to fourth pick in country speaks to his dedication and work ethic.”

Tate’s drive and focus come as no surprise to those who knew him while he attended CHS. Under the guidance of then coach Geoff Ranney, he earned 2nd Team All Sierra League his senior year. Newly-minted CHS graduate Tyler Witt played with Tate when he was a freshman and was impressed by his older teammate.

“He has a ridiculous work ethic,” Witt said in a recent Wolfpacket article. “I observed how he was a student of his craft. Most importantly, Dillon never forgot where he came from.”

The Rangers have lately shown their commitment to building a power-house pitching staff, using their first-round pick to nab a starting pitcher for three years in a row. In 2013, Texas brought Chi Chi Gonzalez on board, followed by Luis Ortiz in 2014.

The Rangers staff has characterized Tate’s talent as raw, but they believe he has the makings of a star pitcher. The right-hander has a fastball that clocks in at 92-98 miles per hour and an up-to-88 mph “wipe-out” slider. He is 6’2” and nearing 200 pounds. He has a projectable frame, with sports pundits expecting him to fill out considerably in bulk and strength in the coming years.

“He started all year and we believe that is what he is,” Fagg said. “We’re very confident he’ll be a starter. Great makeup.”

The Rangers’ faith in Tate is justified, according to UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts.

“He deserves all the credit for his hard work, discipline and vision for being excellent,” Checketts said. “I’m confident he will continue to represent UCSB well in his professional career. I’m personally looking forward to following his career and eventually cheering for him in a big league uniform.”

Tate has spent much of his life cheering for Boston because—somewhat surprisingly, giving his southern California background—he is a huge fan of the Red Sox. Nonetheless, he was delighted to learn he would be throwing his fortunes in with the Rangers.

“So far that’s been one of the greatest moments in my life, and I would just like to thank the Texas Rangers for giving me this wonderful opportunity,” Tate told the MLB network.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com