(BaseballStL) -- After being selected in the second round of this year’s draft, Oscar Mercado had a choice to make between going to college or starting his professional baseball career. The recent high school graduate officially chose the latter on Monday by signing his first professional contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I love the organization I landed with,” Mercado said. “That had a lot to do with it. Obviously, when it comes to college I did want to go to college. It was something I had no problem doing and it was going to take a good amount to bypass that, but all the right pieces landed together...I couldn’t be any happier with where I landed.”
Instead of trying to find where his classes would be on the campus of Florida State University, the 18-year-old spent his first day as a Cardinal meeting with manager Mike Matheny and the young crop of big leaguers who were in his shoes not so long ago.
“It was an honor, a little overwhelming,” Mercado said of his first encounter with the team. “Those guys are huge down there. I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s just exciting to know that I can be a part of all of this and hopefully one day I can be out here playing with these guys.”
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Colombia native was rated the No. 38 prospect of Baseball America’s top 500 prospects, but only batted .286 during his senior season for Gaither High School in Tampa Bay.
While many kids his age are worried about their prom date selection, Mercado admitted his senior season was full of pressure with the draft looming. That pressure is now off his shoulders.
“I faced a lot of adversity and a lot of pressure, and obviously I folded under it, but you just learn from the experience,” Mercado said. “You learn that it’s going to get even worse as you progress so it’s just time to get over it and learn to deal with it.”
In attendance for the series opener against Chicago Cubs, Mercado was already impressed with what he has seen from the organization and its fans.
“It’s a lot better than The Trop (Tampa Bay Rays’ stadium), I’ll tell you that,” Mercado said. “There’s a lot more people that come to this stadium, but it’s awesome. It’s more of a baseball environment, obviously we got killed by the rain a little bit, but it seems like the fans are sticking around.
“They really support the team and that’s good to know that it’s a city that is behind its team 100 percent.”
His visit to St. Louis will be short lived. He will make his way to prepare to play for Palm Beach in the Gulf Coast League starting on Wednesday, two days ahead of Saturday’s opener.
His hope is to be back in St. Louis, but playing next time, within the next three to four years.
“By the time, and if the time does come that I make it to the big leagues, I think I can consider myself to be a pretty good hitter, pretty good on-base percentage,” Mercado said. “I won’t hit for much power. I try to model my hitting game after Derek Jeter so hopefully I’ll end up being like him one day.”
Another Jeter, but this time in a Cardinals uniform, sounds amazing...even if it is still years away.