Graig Mantle

It was the first time in the history of the Cal Poly baseball program that three Mustangs went in the top five rounds of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

And after their names were called Thursday, Cal Poly junior right fielder Grant Desme, junior right-hander Evan Reed and redshirt sophomore right-hander Thomas Eager all confirmed they will sign with their new respective major-league organizations.

Desme went in the second round (74th overall) to the Oakland Athletics, Reed in the third (110th) to the Texas Rangers and Eager in the fifth (172nd) to the St. Louis Cardinals.

“It was pretty much what I expected,” Desme said of going in the second round. “It’s a relief. I’m just going to go out and try to get better. It’s really exciting. It’s only part of the process. The main goal is getting to the majors.”

Desme, who missed the final six games of the regular season with a fractured right wrist, said he expects to have his cast off by Monday and begin minor-league play in July.

Desme, Reed and Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee spoke at an impromptu press conference at Baggett Stadium. Reed was already sporting a blue Rangers cap he had bought soon after learning of Texas’ selection.

“Something’s going to get worked out,” Reed said of a contract, adding a Rangers executive told him over the phone that he is likely to open minor-league play with the Spokane Indians, one of the club’s three Class A affiliates. “I’m going to go in there and try to start. I know I have a lot of work to do. I’m looking forward to doing it.”

Reed said he had spoken to the Rangers previously, but was surprised by Texas’ pick because the team “definitely didn’t show the most interest.”

“It was a huge relief,” Reed said. “You don’t want to get your hopes up.”

Desme watched the draft – which was televised for the first time – on ESPN2 with family and friends at his home. Reed and Eager followed the selections on the Internet with a combination of family, friends and roommates at their houses.

“I’m real excited,” Eager said in a phone interview. “It’s a dream come true for me right now. I’m really happy I get to play with (pitcher) Gary Daley. He was drafted by the Cardinals last year. I’m real excited to play with him.”

When asked if he intended to leave the program for St. Louis’ organization, Eager said: “I’m going to sign.”

“It was unbelievable,” Eager said of seeing his name on the screen. “Me and my two roommates and mom and dad were here. I had to read it twice. . It is a relief. It’s a big-time relief. I knew there were only five rounds today because TV (coverage). It was tough enough trying to sleep last night.”

The selection brought an official end to a historic season for the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Desme. The Bakersfield native was the first Mustang ever to earn a triple crown in the Big West Conference, leading the league in batting average (.405), home runs (15) and RBI (53).

Desme, who was named Big West Player of the Year, surpassed Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith to become the fourth-highest drafted player in school history. Smith was taken 86th overall by the San Diego Padres in 1977.

Desme said he had heard the Rangers wanted him with the 80th pick and that he had not had much contact with the A’s.

“It caught me off guard,” Desme said of going to Oakland.

The 6-4, 230-pound Reed went 4-3 with a 3.19 ERA this season, posting 11 saves for the second-highest single-season total in school history. He was a second-team All-Big West pick.

“I’m sure they’ll have me on a pitch count right away,” Reed said of Spokane.

The 6-2, 205-pound Eager was 11-3 with a 3.43 ERA this season, in which he found a niche as the team’s Sunday starter. He was second in school history for wins in a season and was named first-team all-conference.

“It means a lot,” Eager said of his time at Cal Poly. “It’s tough. I have a great relationship with the coaches. I really like my pitching coach (Jason Kelly). He helped me out a lot this year. I owe a lot to him.”

Of three Mustangs going in the top five rounds, Eager said: “This is good for Cal Poly. Since my freshman year, we’ve had a bunch of guys go as well.”

All three players are headed to clubs with specific needs.

Desme heads to an Oakland team that has a crowded outfield at this point with veterans Mark Kotsay and Milton Bradley in addition to rising star Nick Swisher. However, the A’s’ year-to-year turnover and willingness to give young players a chance bodes well for Desme.

Reed joins a Rangers organization that has been in dire need of pitching since the mid-1990s. Whether Reed remains a starter or reliever, should he reach the majors, there is no doubt he will help a Texas club that has a team ERA of 5.40, second worst in the majors. While former Dodger Eric Gagne is currently anchoring the bullpen, he is coming off two injury-plagued seasons and has already had a stint on the DL this year.

Eager joins a Cardinals squad embroiled in turmoil and tragedy. Their best pitcher, former Cy Young recipient Chris Carpenter, has missed this year. Former A’s star Mark Mulder has managed only 17 starts between this year and last. With the exception of Braden Looper, the Cardinals are in need of starting pitching for the future.

The Mustangs were 32-24 overall and fourth at 13-8 in the Big West this year.

The first Big West player taken was 6-3 UC Riverside junior right-hander James Simmons, who went to the A’s 26th overall.

“That’s someone I’ve seen before,” Desme said of Simmons. “It’ll be nice to be on the same (minor-league) team.”

Though happy for his three players chosen Thursday, Lee was disappointed to see two incoming players – Cabrillo High (Lompoc) southpaw Daniel Duffy and Fresno City College catcher Jameson Smith – go early as well.

Duffy went 96th overall to the Kansas City Royals and Smith 106th to the Florida Marlins.

Lee said he expects both Duffy and Smith to sign.

“We’ve got another day to sweat it out,” Lee said of the final 45 rounds.

Lee, though, was glad to see the team’s humble superstar, Desme, go as high as he did.

“Everybody is happy,” Lee said. “He plays the game all out (and) is a team player. Good things happen to good people.”

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