One in an occasional series about how athletes view their college recruiting experience.

Mickey Moniak’s recruitment wasn’t unorthodox, but it was certainly rare. Few high school athletes are pursued by both college and professional teams at the same time. Even so, few high school athletes were as good as Mickey Moniak was at baseball.

Perfect Game ranked him as the fifth-best recruit in the class of 2016, a distinction that wasn’t lost on many. As such, Moniak was barely a year into his time at La Costa Canyon High School when the recruiting letters started pouring in.

Moniak connects for a single for La Costa Canyon High School. He went straight to the pros from high school.
San Diego Union-Tribune
Moniak connects for a single for La Costa Canyon High School. He went straight to the pros from high school.

“I had my recruiting process get over with pretty early," the Phillies prospect said. "I committed to UCLA right after my freshman year of high school, so it was just something that guys were reaching out, colleges were reaching out, and I always knew I wanted to stay in Southern California if I was going to go to college. And UCLA had just won the national championship.”

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Not only did it happen early, it happened fast. Moniak recalled that it took him only a month after receiving his first offer to make his commitment to the Bruins. He’d been deciding between UCLA and USC, but familiarity was the difference-maker.

“It kind of came down between UCLA and USC, and I just felt for me the best fit was UCLA with the coaching staff and the guys I knew who were going there," Moniak said.

Ultimately, though, Moniak chose to follow a relatively unfamiliar path when the Phillies called to let him know that they were selecting the Encinitas, Calif., native with the first overall pick of the 2016 MLB Draft.

“I kind of had a good idea that I was going to go in the first round going into the summer after my senior year, but even then, at the same time, I definitely wasn’t thinking 100% going pro," he said. “I had the opportunity getting picked first overall — an amazing opportunity that you’re maybe not going to get again — so I definitely rolled with that.”

Moniak (left), the first overall selection in the 2016 MLB draft, and Johnny Almaraz, the Phillies director of amateur scouting, speak to reporters on June 21, 2016.
DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
Moniak (left), the first overall selection in the 2016 MLB draft, and Johnny Almaraz, the Phillies director of amateur scouting, speak to reporters on June 21, 2016.

Of course, there’s plenty of pre-draft politicking to determine whether a high school prospect intends to sign a professional contract or play college ball, but Moniak had strong backing from his family to pursue his dreams.

“My grandpa got signed out of high school before there was a draft," he said. “[My family] always said, ‘You know, whatever you want to do.’ They always supported me through all that, so they were fully on board.”

Even though he never set foot on a college campus as a student-athlete, Moniak still appreciated the recruiting process and said that it’s one worth savoring.

“That’s like the first taste you get of validating that you’re a pretty good baseball player, and it was awesome just seeing hard work pay off," he said. "The college process was the first stepping stone to the ultimate goal, and it was really exciting at the time.”

Moniak is currently with the double-A Reading Fightin Phils of the Eastern League, where he’s hitting .260/.321/.436. His would-be junior class at UCLA spent 2019 accumulating a 52-11 record and earning a No. 1 national seed in the NCAA Tournament before falling to eventual national runner-up Michigan in the Los Angeles Super Regional.