While cell phones in class are not permitted, Tuesday was a special circumstance for Penticton baseball player Dustin Houle who was drafted by the Major League Baseball team the Milwaukee Brewers.
“I had warned my teacher ahead of time that I might be getting a call and he told me to go ahead and take it if it came,” explained Houle.
The teacher realized this was not an ordinary phone call.
Houle, who is from Penticton but moved last year to play baseball with the B.C. Premier League’s Langely Blaze, was sitting in English class at Brookswood Secondary when his phone rang shortly after noon.
On the other end was Houle’s advisor calling with the great news that the 17-year-old had been taken in the eighth round, 251st overall, by the Brewers.
“I was shocked to go that high,” Houle admitted, figuring he would go between the tenth and 15th rounds of the 50-round draft for all high school, college and university players in North America. “But over the past month, I have been tearing it up. I am just really excited right now; it is a surreal moment.”
Houle, a third-baseman/catcher, spent most of May in the Dominican Republic with Canada’s junior national team. Upon returning a few weeks ago, the Brewers invited him to a pre-draft workout just last week (June 3). And Houle made a very lasting impression. Already on the organization’s radar, Houle belted a 420-foot home run. Following that monster shot, he said one of the team’s scouts began calling him the ‘Canadian King Kong.’
After talking to his advisor, who will soon become his agent, Houle called his mom Fay, in Penticton. He said she got pretty emotional over his accomplishments.
“My mom was my first call. She was pretty happy. She said congratulations and she started tearing up and crying right away,” said Houle. “Right after I talked to her I spoke with the head Canadian scout with the Brewers and then people were texting me and Facebook’ing me — it was just hectic.”
Houle left home last year to join the Blaze, knowing it would open more doors and opportunities for his baseball career. While he praises his Blaze coaches Doug Mathieson and Jamie Bodaly for the support they have given him, he doesn’t forget those who helped him get there. Houle was a power-hitting third baseman/catcher for the South Okanagan Tigers, Penticton’s minor baseball association for three seasons.
“(Tigers) Coach Junior Deleon was a big influence and taught me a lot of basic baseball knowledge that gave me the foundation to take me to where I am today. The Tigers organization really made me because I was playing house league before that and it wasn’t as competitive. Playing with the Tigers helped me succeed and just want it more,” said Houle. “I called Coach Junior on draft day and talked to him for almost an hour. He is one of the bigger influences on my baseball career. I talk to him a lot still and he said he was really happy for me because I came from a long way to where I am now.”
The excitement of being drafted is still apparent in Houle’s voice, but for the time being he will remain in the Blaze line-up. Through 19 games, Houle is hitting .304 with a team-high 15 RBIs. He is also just two RBIs behind the Premier Baseball League lead, despite playing three less games and having 16 less at-bats. Still a teenager, Houle will try to go back to a normal life at least until he graduates on June 29.
“After that I am pretty sure I will be going to Arizona for July and August. All the guys that get drafted go there to play in the rookie ball system,” said Houle.
Of course a stop home in Penticton to visit family and friends is also scheduled.
“Oh ya,” he assured. “And when I get Brewers gear, I will be handing it out to them.”
According to MLB rules, Houle cannot sign a pro contract until graduating. Should he choose not to sign, he does have a scholarship to Florida’s Chipola College.
-With files from Gary Ahuja/Black Press