Former Smiths Station pitcher Blake Rivera was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the fourth round of the 2018 MLB Draft on Tuesday. The 6-4, 205-pound Rivera, who spent the last two seasons at Wallace State, was previously selected by the Giants in the 32nd round of last year’s draft.
“It’s definitely a huge honor knowing how much the Giants were interested in me and how they stuck with me,” Rivera told the Opelika-Auburn News. “It’s a huge accomplishment to know they thought that highly of me, especially with so much talent on the board. It’s a dream come true.”
Rivera was 2018 Alabama Community College Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2018 after going 10-0 with a 1.75 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 67 innings. Rivera’s 2018 campaign followed a debut season with Wallace State in which he went 7-1 with 72 strikeouts and a 1.94 ERA in 55.2 innings.
Prior to going off to college, Rivera helped the 2015 Smiths Station baseball team capture the 2015 Class 7A state championship.
Rivera’s selection makes him the highest-drafted Wallace State player since the Atlanta Braves selected Craig Kimbrel in the third round in 2008. Rivera was the first junior college pitcher selected in this year’s draft.
Rivera’s similar path to Kimbrel’s led many to compare Rivera to the Boston Red Sox closer.
“That was awesome to hear,” Rivera said. “Craig Kimbrel is arguably the best pitcher to come through Wallace State and is now an elite closer. It’s the goal of every baseball player here to follow in his shoes and try to make an impact like that.”
Rivera had previously signed to play baseball at Auburn in 2018. While Rivera has yet to announce what his next step will be, Rivera made sure to thank the Wallace State coaching staff who helped him reach this point.
“Wallace State helped me grow up in all aspects of my life. It was good to get away from home and work hard on my own. I learned how to work to achieve team and personal goals, and I enjoyed every second of it,” Rivera said. “(Head coach Randy) Putman, coach (Ben) Hawkins and coach (Chad) Shannon helped me become a better pitcher, and I had the best teammates you could ask for.”