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Pirates 1st-round pick Shane Baz signs day before 18th birthday

Rob Biertempfel
| Friday, June 16, 2017, 7:09 p.m.
Pirates first-round draft pick Shane Baz is introduced by general manager Neal Huntington during a news conference Friday, June 16, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates first-round draft pick Shane Baz is introduced by general manager Neal Huntington during a news conference Friday, June 16, 2017, at PNC Park.
Pirates first round draft pick Shane Baz and his family tour the ballpark with general manager Neal Huntington after he signed with the team Friday, June 16, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates first round draft pick Shane Baz and his family tour the ballpark with general manager Neal Huntington after he signed with the team Friday, June 16, 2017, at PNC Park.

Shane Baz opened his birthday present a day early Friday when the first-round pick signed with the Pirates.

“I might have the best 18th birthday of all time,” Baz said. “I don't know what more anyone could ask for than something like this.”

Baz got a $4.1 million signing bonus. The slot value for the 12th overall pick was $4,032,200, but the Pirates upped the ante to lure the right-handed pitcher away from a scholarship to TCU.

“I had circumstances that I wanted to be met to forgo college,” Baz said. “This was the right opportunity, and I'm happy with my decision, for sure.”

Baz was assigned to the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Pirates.

At Concordia Lutheran High School in Tomball, Texas, Baz went 6-2 with a 0.93 ERA. Baseball America rated his fastball tops among high school pitchers in this year's draft.

“He had so many things we're looking for in young players,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “The ability speaks for itself. The explosiveness to the fastball. The ability to move the fastball around and have it do different things, the ability to spin a breaking ball, the feel for a changeup. The size, the athleticism, the delivery, the arm action, how it all works.

“From a baseball trade standpoint, he checked a lot of boxes for us. Everybody who watched Shane loved the way he competed, the way he got after it and left it out there on the baseball field.”

Baz began to develop those traits early. His mother, Tammy, saw the signs when he was just 3 years old.

“Before he could walk, he could throw a baseball straight to me,” Tammy Baz said. “The last couple of years, we saw a lot of improvement, especially with his pitching. It really surprised us and amazed us.”

After draft day, Baz's parents let him decide whether to turn pro with the Pirates or go to TCU.

“We're supportive of him, no matter what,” said his father, Raj. “Education is very important. But the bottom line is, it's his own life, and he's got to make his own decisions. We've raised him a certain way, and we'll pick him up if he stumbles. He wanted to weigh all his options, and this was an amazing opportunity with a great organization.”

The Baz family arrived in Pittsburgh on Thursday and plans to stay through Sunday.

“I got to go around the city yesterday and today, and it's already got my heart. I love it,” Baz said.

And he's seeking recommendations for where to have his birthday dinner Saturday.

“Maybe Primanti's,” Baz said, grinning.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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