MILWAUKEE For Albert Almora, it was either a pool or a batting cage, and that wasnt really a choice at all.
Almora credited his fathers imagination for turning the backyard of their South Florida home into a training ground for one of the best amateur players in the country, the No. 6 overall pick in the draft.
Cubs executives visited the house, and the MLB Network gave a glimpse into Almoras world the cage, the pull-up bar and the rope tied to a tree for climbing.
This sport runs in my veins, Almora said.
Jason McLeod, who oversees scouting and player development for the Cubs, raved about Almoras work ethic and internal drive. So its hard to imagine someone wired this way turning down an opportunity like this.
But it was interesting to listen to the 18-year-old outfielder from Mater Academy in Hialeah Gardens, whos being advised by agent Scott Boras and trying to create some leverage.
My main priority right now is college, Almora said Tuesday on a conference call. I just graduated high school right now and I have a full scholarship to the University of Miami and thats what Im looking forward to.
When the times right and everything works out, then itll happen. But for right now my main priority is the University of Miami.
Ill guarantee that Im ready for major-league baseball, but well have to see what happens.
Almora didnt attach too much significance to being the first draft choice of the Theo Epstein administration: Im just happy to be picked by a major-league club. Its something that Ive worked for all my life.
But McLeods first pick (No. 65) running the draft for the Boston Red Sox in 2004 was an undersized player from Arizona State University named Dustin Pedroia, who would go on to win a World Series ring and become the American League MVP in 2008.
If there are great expectations, the Cubs liked how Almora was drawn to the higher levels of competition, playing year-round for elite travel teams in Florida and winning five gold medals for Team USA.
The front office surely has an idea of what it will take to sign Almora under the new, restrictive collective bargaining agreement. The bonus recommended by the commissioners office is 3.25 million, according to Baseball America.
In my mind, I trust my abilities and I know what I can do on the field, but thats not the priority right now, Almora said. We have to let everything the process play out and let the cards fall where they have to fall. I cant control that. Thats something that Chicago has to talk about with their organization and come to an agreement.
Cubs manager Dale Sveum watched video of Almora before the draft and came away impressed with his effortless swing.
That guys pretty far ahead of the game with his mechanics, Sveum said. He does a lot of (the) things that a lot of good hitters do, (the kind) of things that pan out in the long run.
Looking to the future and trying to address the organizations biggest need the Cubs selected seven straight pitchers after Almora.
Through the first two days, the Cubs have picked 11 pitchers, one infielder, three outfielders and two catchers. Eleven players are from college and six are out of high school. The draft ends Wednesday with rounds 16-40.
The new labor deal pushed up the deadline to sign draft picks to July 13. The Cubs will be looking to close on a player they feel can push teammates and lead by example.
All I can guarantee from me is that Im going to play the game 120 percent, Almora said. I cant guarantee that Ill hit four or five home runs, but Ill be giving it my all every day.