Cleveland Drafts Former Payson High Pitching Star

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A young man who spent his teenage years unleashing fastballs from the Payson High School pitching mound might soon be toeing the rubber in major league stadiums.

Twenty-year-old Tom Canale, a Longhorn pitching star from 1994 to 1997, was picked in Monday's professional baseball draft by the Cleveland Indians. He was drafted in the 12th round the 306th pick overall.

Canale who acquired the nick name "Tommy Gun" for his rapid fire deliveries as an all-star pitcher at Payson High said he's glad the suspense of the draft is over.

"Now I can go play, that's what I've been waiting for."

Canale, who was among 18 players in Arizona to be selected in the professional draft, said he was surprised Cleveland picked him.

"I didn't know what round I'd go, but I thought I might have been taken by Minnesota (Twins)," he said.

After learning he'd been drafted Monday, Canale spent the rest of the day in his new Peoria home anxiously awaiting a call from Cleveland officials to find out which of the team's affiliates he's been assigned to.

Canale said that during early conversations with team representatives, he'd been led to believe he'd report to the Indian's Class A farm team.

But before he uncorks his first professional pitch, he must agree to a pro contract, which could ultimately make him a wealthy man.

Canale has turned the sticky business of contract negotiations over to Al Schoenberger, his California-based agent. He said he prefers to concentrate on playing baseball rather than haggling over contract issues.

In college

For the past three seasons, the former Payson baseball standout has been the pitching ace for California Lutheran University, leading the school to the post season each year.

He wrapped his final collegiate campaign last month with a 10-2 record and a sterling 3.98 ERA.

Cal Lutheran coach Marty Slimak said Canale who began to draw scouts' attention after developing a blazing 90-mph fastball, a nasty slider and a sharp breaking curveball was the highest draft choice in the school's history.

He's also the only Payson High School baseball player to ever be taken in the professional draft.

Coming out of PHS in 1997, Canale wasn't pursued by any of the state's universities and briefly considered attending a junior college.

But after a visit to the Cal Lutheran campus in Thousand Oaks, Calif., he returned to Payson convinced the university was where he wanted to continue his baseball career.

He's never regretted that decision, he said.

As a senior at Payson High, Canale was widely regarded as the 3A conference's best pitcher, finishing with a 10-2 record and a 2.07 ERA. He also swung a decent bat, compiling a .318 batting average.

His Payson prep coach, Ted Pettet, said he's not surprised by his former star's continuing baseball success.

"Tom had the attitude it takes; he was the kind of kid that would be out there (on the field) saying 'give me the ball, I wanna pitch,'" Pettet said.

With his selection in the draft, he'll now be pitching for pay.

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