Unpretentious Frank Mozzicato is now baseball royalty
The Mozzicatos could have gone to Denver for the MLB All-Star Game and experienced the glamour and glitz of being picked in a nationally televised draft, or they could have rented out a place in Connecticut and hosted a huge gathering to anticipate and celebrate.
But Frank Mozzicato isn’t wired that way. For him, an unpretentious Sunday night gathering at home in Ellington with parents Anthony and Suzanne, immediate family and closest friends would be good enough for the biggest night of his life so far.
“I wanted to be around people who had been with me from the start of it and enjoy the process with them because they’re as much a part of it as I am,” Mozzicato said. “Just being around my family and friends, that means a lot to me. It just feels it was right to do it at home.”
That’s where Mozzicato, surrounded by about 30 teammates, friends, coaches, took the call from the Kansas City Royals. The Royals made Mozzicato the seventh pick in the MLB draft. Seventh. Let that sink in. A left-handed pitcher from East Catholic High who was all set to go to UConn, who few scouts had on their radar a few months ago, rose so high, so fast, it’s a miracle he doesn’t have a nosebleed.
“I had to leave the room to hear the call,” he said. “When I came back, I was like, ‘The Royals are taking me at seven.’ You could feel the house shake. Everybody was going crazy. I’m still at a loss for words. It was all so amazing.”
The family’s unpretentious nature played well on draft night. Mozzicato’s “signability,” or reasonable demands, was a big factor in him going so high. In any case, he will make millions.
Even as he rose week by week in mock drafts, no one had him going seventh. Not since Bobby Valentine went to the Dodgers at No. 5 in 1968 has a Connecticut high school player, or any player from the state, gone this high in the draft.
As Mozzicato stayed true to himself, his pitching changed everything in April and May with four no-hitters in a row, a string that lasted 30 1/3 innings. He struck out 113 in 46 2/3 innings for East Catholic and allowed one earned run, an 0.21 ERA.
As scouts and some GMs flocked to his games, his mother said wryly one night in Bristol, “I just want him to clean his room.”
He did, we are told, in time for his Zoom call with Kansas City media.
“The spring, it was crazy,” Mozzicato said. “My focus wasn’t necessarily on the scouts. It was on winning a state championship for East Catholic. It was definitely crazy. I tried to stay away from the scouts and all that stuff.”
He met with Royals executives and learned about their development philosophies in a lengthy video call a few days before the draft, which proved to be the sign they were serious about taking him with their first pick.
“Personality,” Royals GM Dayton Moore said. “Personality is huge. Having fun, loving the game, loving his teammates, loving his community, deep respect for the game, a strong commitment to get better and be the best. Everybody who has seen him and interacted with him, very experienced evaluators who have seen him, love him. They love his personality, his energy, his work ethic, the excitement he brings to his team.”
The business of baseball starts now. “Slot” value for the No. 7 pick in the draft is $5.4 million. The Royals, like all MLB teams, try to manipulate the limited amount of money they can spend on bonuses. Mozzicato and their management appear to be on the same page.
“We wouldn’t have drafted Frankie if we didn’t feel confident we could get him signed,” Moore said. “No issue there whatsoever. We want the players we select to love us as much as we love them, and this is a terrific fit.”
So Mozzicato will be a Royal soon, as surely as he will forever be baseball royalty here in Connecticut as a result of this magical year of his.
“I can’t wait to get my career started in Kansas City,” he said. “They have a great staff, and it’s an awesome fit.”
The Royals, who won the World Series in 2015, broke their team down and have been rebuilding since. Royals fans and baseball savants will be analyzing Mozzicato’s every start in the minor leagues, every new wrinkle to his delivery or pitches, looking for clues as to whether Kansas City outsmarted the rest of MLB or reached for Mozzicato because he is signable. There was plenty of discontent from Royals fans over Moore’s selection on social media Sunday night.
All we can do now is go by what we have seen, a pitcher with a repeatable delivery that allows him to throw with uncanny command, a hellacious curveball, and a young man unruffled by a meteoric rise and not likely to be rattled by what comes ahead with the unfathomable millions or the pressure of being picked seventh in the draft.
The Royals saw it, too, and they made the call that rocked the house.
Dom Amore is a sports columnist for the Hartford (Conn.) Courant.