Ron Ball grew up in Indiana rooting for the Yankees because Don Mattingly was from Evansville. But on Wednesday, Ball stood on the field at Fenway Park proudly wearing a blue Red Sox polo shirt.
His loyalties took a sharp turn on June 6 when the Red Sox drafted his son, Trey, with the seventh overall pick of the amateur draft.
“When the call came that Boston was interested at seven, that surprised us,” Ron Ball said. “We were thinking he might go 10-15th, somewhere in there. I told Trey that was an incredible opportunity.”
Trey Ball, a 6-foot-6 lefthander from New Castle (Ind.) High, was in Boston on Sunday to take his physical and Wednesday signed a contract that will pay him a bonus of $2.75 million. That’s below the assigned slot value of $3.2 million and gives the Red Sox the flexibility to sign some other picks.
Ball was uniform for batting practice and at one point played catch with Clay Buchholz. When he visited the clubhouse, several of the Red Sox had fun joking around with him. Dustin Pedroia told Ball to hurry up and get to Boston so he could retire.
“They were giving me a hard time,” Ball said. “It was a good time.”
Sox manager John Farrell watched the scene and got a good laugh from it.
“He got a taste of some of the guys in our clubhouse too. And to his credit, he handled it great,” Farrell said. “You’ve got an 18-year-old kid who walks in with a jacket and a tie, who obviously comes from a good family. You can see that. And he did his family proud given what he heard.”
Ball was not hard to spot on the field. He wore his socks high and looked painfully thin next to the big leaguers as he shagged fly balls. Ball leaves Thursday for Fort Myers and the Gulf Coast League Red Sox. He hopes to start pitching in July.
“We’re going to take it slow. I haven’t been pitching lately,” Ball said.
Sox general manager Ben Cherington said Ball was a player who “checked all the boxes” when he was evaluated.
“Very athletic kid with a good combination of makeup, athleticism, stuff, projectability” Cherington said. “We got to know him very well and this is a good kid with a great work ethic. Highly competitive.”
Ball is the team’s highest draft pick since Trot Nixon was taken seventh overall in 1993.
Ball also is an accomplished hitter with good power and speed and rated high on draft boards as an outfielder. But he’ll give that up to pitch.
Ball will give up the knuckleball he threw in high school. Ball said it was an out pitch for him until he picked up a curveball until his junior year.
“I’ve had it since Little League,” he said. “It was fastball, changeup and then I threw that in. I’ve thrown it ever since. … It worked for me.”
Ball’s parents, other members of his family and his girlfriend joined him in Boston on Monday. They took a duck boat tour of Boston.
“The whole thing has been a great experience. Very exciting,” Ball said. “I can’t wait to get started.”