Jared Horn, a 2016 Vintage High School graduate who was the ace of his year’s University of California-Berkeley pitching staff, saw his childhood dreams of becoming a professional player come closer to fruition Tuesday afternoon when the Colorado Rockies officially selected him in the seventh round of the Major League Baseball draft at No. 219 overall.
“I’m feeling pretty good and excited. Me and my family are excited to have this opportunity,” Horn said in a phone interview. “Making it to the MLB has always been a dream of mine, probably since I first started playing baseball. Out of high school, I knew I was in the conversation and with these past couple years at Cal, I knew I would put myself in a pretty good position to get picked up by a team.”
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound, right-handed junior evolved into an elite-level pitching prospect this season, improving his command. After posting a combined ERA of 5.36 during his freshman and sophomore seasons, he dropped it to 1.82 this year. With a fastball that consistently registers in the low- to mid-90s and a plus curve, Horn projects as a middle-end starter in the big leagues.
He compiled a 6-1 record on the mound across 11 starts this season, allowing only 14 earned runs while striking out 56 batters and giving up only 18 walks. Playing in the tough Pac-12 Conference, Horn still managed to notch just under seven innings per outing while allowing opponents to bat just .197 against him.
“I think it’s probably just maturing as a pitcher, being more mentally confident,” he said of his improved stats, “(and) mentally prepared to go out there and just compete at a high level.”
Those numbers surprised exactly zero Napans who saw him pitch at Vintage, where his 1.44 career ERA and gaudy 0.67 senior year ERA garnered Second Team All-America honors from MaxPreps.com in 2016.
He will now try to replicate those numbers as a member of the Rockies’ organization, a National League West rival of his favorite team, the San Francisco Giants.
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“It would kind of be fun to be playing against them,” Horn laughed. “Hopefully one day I will.”
While the grind through the minors to the big leagues can be daunting, Horn said he has a confidant with shared experience in whom he can confide – Cal pitching coach and volunteer assistant Matt Flemer. Flemer grew up in El Cerrito and was drafted in the 27th round by the Rockies in 2012 as a right-handed pitcher out of Cal. He played in the minors for seven seasons, ultimately reaching the AAA-level with the Albuquerque Isotopes before returning to his alma mater in a coaching capacity.
“He knows a lot more than I do at this point about how they do things,” Horn said. “I’m looking forward to getting more information on them and I’m just excited to head out.”
Horn said he can’t thank his former coaches with Napa American Legion and Vintage High School enough. He especially thanks his late father Daryl, who played baseball at Sacramento State, for being “a huge part of my development as a baseball player.”
To all the youth baseball players around the Napa Valley area, Horn’s message is that hard work pays off if you stay the course.
“This is something I’ve been working for my whole entire life,” he said. “I never stopped working for it. It isn’t going to pay off right away, but I feel like I’m starting to reap the benefits of it. And it feels awesome.”