Provo • Of all the major league teams that were talking about drafting him this week, BYU’s Jackson Cluff hoped it would be the Washington Nationals because of his relationship with scouts Mitch Sokol and Scott Ramsay.
“It’s just a dream come true, because of the opportunity,” Cluff said Tuesday after the Nationals selected him with in the sixth round, No. 183 overall.
Cluff, a shortstop who just completed his second season of college eligibility, becomes BYU’s highest draft pick since Jacob Hannemann was taken in third round of 2013 draft by the Chicago Cubs.
“The first thing I have to realize is that no one makes it on draft day. The work is ahead,” Cluff said via telephone from his home in Meridian, Idaho. “But just knowing all the sacrifices my parents and coaches and teammates have made, it is a pretty rewarding experience, knowing that your career isn’t over yet and you are going to get plenty of opportunities moving forward.”
Rounds 3-10 of the MLB draft concluded with Cluff the only player with Utah ties selected. The University of Utah’s Oliver Dunn, a Cottonwood High product, is expected to be taken early Wednesday when the draft concludes with rounds 11-40.
Other BYU hopefuls are pitchers Justin Sterner and Jordan Wood and outfielder Brock Hall.
Cluff said the Nationals gave him a heads up about 30 minutes before they drafted him so his parents and siblings could gather at home to share the moment with him. Cluff wasn’t listed among Baseball America’s top 500 draft prospects, but BYU coach Mike Littlewood predicted last week the returned missionary would be taken relatively early.
“A lot of scouts have shown up the last few months to watch him play,” Littlewood said.
Upon returning from his mission to Atlanta, Cluff hit .327 and added 56 RBI. He stole 12 bases and earned national player of the week honors twice this past season.
“These opportunities for [returned missionaries] are definitely limited, just because of age and whatnot,” Cluff said. “ But when it comes down to it, your play speaks for itself. If a guy is able to come home from a mission and play at the level he needs to, I think he is going to get an opportunity.
“Over the years, we have had guys at BYU prove that over and over again. So I hope it gives confidence to other people moving forward.”
Cluff’s father, Paul, a two-time All-American at BYU, was taken in the fourth round in 1989 and has groomed Jackson to be a baseball star from a young age.
According to MLB.com, the slot value for the 183rd overall pick is $266,000.
Cluff said he will fly out Sunday to the Nationals’ spring training facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., and work out the details of a contract. Barring anything unforeseen, he will be assigned to a team shortly thereafter and begin his professional baseball career.