Andrew Thurman said he wanted to watch the first day of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in an open setting, with family and friends.
He also wanted to watch it at a place that has been very close to his heart. He said it was only fitting to watch the draft at UC Irvine, at Newkirk Pavilion, next to Anteater Ballpark. It also ended up being fitting that he was selected on the first day, No. 40 overall, when the Houston Astros picked the right-handed pitcher.
Thurman is UC Irvine's highest draft pick in the program's new era, edging Anteater alumnus, Brett Smith, who was chosen 42nd overall by the New York Yankees in 2004.
Before the Anteaters program was reinstated, UCI's Jeff Malinoff a first baseman, was picked in the second round (22nd overall) in the June Draft, secondary phase by the Angels in 1974. He was taken in the second round, (38th overall) in the January Draft, secondary phase in 1974 by the Phillies.
"I'm completely excited and felt very blessed to be picked by [the Astros]," Thurman said during a phone interview Thursday night. "Playing at UCI was the best time of my life. I'm very thankful for not only the baseball aspects – for the coaches and players, some are my best friends – but also the great school. I enjoyed my time there."
UCI also enjoyed him.
The Anteaters junior pitcher has been the team's ace the last two seasons.
Thurman, out of Orange Lutheran High, was 6-4 with a 3.23 earned-run average in 14 starts for the Anteaters in 2013 as a junior. He struck out 91, walked 19 and allowed 85 hits in 100 1/3 innings, on his way to second-team All-Big West Conference honors.
As a sophomore, Thurman was 8-3 with a 2.66 ERA, including a no-hitter at Long Beach State, and was a first-team all-conference choice. In three seasons at UCI, he was a combined 18-10 with a 3.19 ERA and 224 strikeouts in 273 2/3 innings. His career strikeouts are No. 8 in the record books at UCI and his career ERA of 3.19 is 13th best among UCI's all-time leaders.
Thurman's older brother, Tim, played at Corona del Mar High, Golden West College and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Tim was drafted in the 25th round by the Baltimore Orioles in 2002 and played three minor league seasons as an infielder and outfielder.
For all the planning that went into Thurman's draft viewing party, he still wasn't prepared for the excitement and friends' reaction.
"My phone was blowing up for a little bit, and it actually still is," Thurman said. "Everyone has been congratulating me. It's an awesome feeling."
Thurman said he will spend the next few days negotiating a contract with the Astros and figuring out his future. Thursday night he said he planned to "celebrate," and then later get to work.
"I'm looking forward to be able to play for them and to give them everything I have," Thurman said. "I'm really looking forward to going out and playing."
— Barry Faulkner contributed to this storyCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun