A former Millennium High School baseball player is taking his journey to the professional level.
Josh Rojas, a 2013 graduate of Millennium and 2017 graduate of the University of Hawaii, was selected as the 16th pick of the 26th round of the 2017 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Houston Astros organization. Rojas was the 781st player selected overall during the three-day draft event from June 12 to 14.
“I was definitely excited,” Rojas said. “It was kind of unexpected. I didn’t get many calls before that, nobody seemed overly interested. On draft day, I was relaxed and not really paying attention to it. To get the call was pretty exciting.”
Rojas was one of the Rainbow Warriors’ top performers in 2017. The infielder hit .294 over 170 at bats. He was tied for the team lead in home runs (5), first in triples (6) and on base percentage (.404), and second in doubles (15) and hits (50). Rojas played in all but one of the team’s games in 2017, and was the only player to start in 50 of them.
Rojas moved to Hawaii after completing two years at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix. The drafting process has ultimately solidified his schooling decisions after leaving Millennium, he said.
“That was one of the first things I looked back on,” Rojas said. “This was the ultimate goal when I graduated high school and went on to play in college. It’s hard each step of the way, especially making your decisions. Most guys get the opportunity to go [Division I] and that’s kind of your final place for the next four years, whereas I went to a junior college. I had to make that decision out of high school, and two years later, I had to make another decision on where I wanted to go to college to finish my final two years. It was cool to be able to look back and think all the decisions were the right decision, [especially] because they were tough at the time.”
Rojas had one workout before the MLB draft. A representative with the Astros invited him to a pre-draft combine in Huntington Beach, Calif., to showcase his skills.
“I went there and did the workout, but didn’t really hear anything after that,” Rojas said. “Then on draft day, I got the call from the Astros.”
Rojas flew out to Troy, N.Y., on June 20, signed a professional contract with the Astros and began playing with the Tri-City Valleycats, a short-season Class A team in the New York-Penn League.
Rojas traveled nearly 5,000 miles from Honolulu to Troy, and then had to wait a few extra days for all the paperwork to go through.
“They just had to get the business side done before I could hit the field,” Rojas said. “I’ve been itching to play.”
Rojas will play with the Valleycats through September, then break for the offseason and report back to the organization in late January.
Rojas said he’s especially thankful to be in the Astros organization because of its reputation of developing minor league talent.
“They’re well known for getting guys up from the Minor Leagues to the Major Leagues,” he said. “I’ve been able to watch practices and watch workouts. The player development stuff going on is amazing. Everything they do is geared toward the Major League level. They’re not just focused on being successful here, that’s the main message. I’m super excited about being with the Astros.”
The players at the Valleycats camp have been told to expect to play multiple positions to help round out their game, something Rojas is already accustomed to, he said.
From his time at Millennium through Hawaii, Rojas has played in the outfield, third base, shortstop and second base.
“I’ve always been able to play every position,” he said. “I was talking to the other infielders here, and they said they like to move us all around and get us comfortable at every position, just so at the next level, you’re not at one spot stuck behind one person. That’s what I’m most excited about. I’ve done the whole moving around thing and I feel comfortable doing it.”
The Tri-City Valleycats’ season began June 20 with a loss to Connecticut, 9-0.
Shane McOwen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ShaneMcOwen.