High School Sports

Swimming standout stunned after being drafted by the Chicago White Sox

Sam Abbott, a three-time state MVP in water polo for Curtis High school, was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the eighth round. He’s the first prep player from Washington to be selected in the 2017 baseball draft.
Sam Abbott, a three-time state MVP in water polo for Curtis High school, was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the eighth round. He’s the first prep player from Washington to be selected in the 2017 baseball draft. The News Tribune

About a month ago, baseball was nowhere on Sammy Abbott’s radar.

And at the start of the season – did Abbott see himself playing baseball beyond high school?

“No,” Abbott said, admittedly struggling to find words. “No chance.”

But in one of the craziest whirlwind months the Curtis High School senior might ever experience, he got noticed by a baseball scout during this past high school season, then awed former MLB players Jim Thome and Nomar Garciaparra.

On Tuesday, Abbott was selected in the eighth round – No. 237 overall – of the MLB draft by the Chicago White Sox. The approximate value of that pick is $161,600, according to MLB.com. He was the first high school player selected from the state.

Not bad for a water polo player.

“I’m still just trying to figure everything out,” Abbott said shortly after being selected. “It’s been a roller coaster of a month. And it ended well – and ended with a dream come true.”

He signed his letter of intent to play water polo, earning a partial scholarship to play at Long Beach State University.

But baseball?

Curtis baseball coach Bryan Robinson said he’s seen for three years what scouts had only come to recognize in the past month.

“I’ve seen this since he was at least a sophomore,” Robinson said. “Maybe not eighth round seeing it, but definitely next level with his swing and his approach and his defense. All his work he put in the swimming pool paid off for baseball. I’m incredibly happy for him.”

Abbott was in taking a test in his AP government class when he was drafted.

The first question Robinson said he got from scouts: So how serious is this water polo?

He’s a three-time state MVP in the club sport and helped Curtis win back-to-back state titles. And in the winter, he placed second in the 100 freestyle and third in the 50 freestyle at the 4A state swimming championships.

“You know he’s the best swimmer by watching him in the water,” Curtis swimming coach Dennis Piccolotto had said earlier this year. “But you wouldn’t know by talking to him. He’s one of the most humble kids I have ever coached.

“A true class act.”

Then he hit the baseball field this spring. He a left-handed hitting first baseman.

Robinson said that a White Sox scout, Robbie Cummings, was watching Curtis face 4A state champion Puyallup in a league game.

Abbott went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.

But the scout liked his swing. He watched Abbott some more, including when Abbott hit home runs in each of Curtis’ final two games of the season against South Kitsap and Tahoma. It was the same scout who threw Abbott batting practice at the summer Area Code games in California.

Abbott batted .438 (21-for-61) with eight doubles, two home runs and 18 RBIs for the Vikings this year.

He was invited to Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago on June 4 for a workout with other prospects. The second pitch Abbott saw he sent over the right field fence. He also got to chat with Thome, who is a special assistant for the team.

“And he sure seemed to think the world of him,” Robinson said.

“He was a really cool dude,” Abbott said. “We just talked baseball and I introduced myself. It was cool to meet someone in the top 10 in baseball history for home runs (612).”

Abbott also spent an hour recently working out with Garciaparra.

He’s played this sport since he was 2, he said. And didn’t start playing water polo until his freshman year. His mother was an Olympic swimmer with the Russian national team and his father played baseball in Boston before joining the Marines Corps.

“You just never know what life is going to throw at you,” said Abbott’s father, Jeff. “We were lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

“The thing that really interested some scouts is what’s going to happen when he concentrates on one thing. He’s an honor student who played three sports. Their plan is to put him with the best hitting instructors, fielding instructors, weight-lifting trainers and basically take him from there.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677