David Gonzalez may not even know of Chris Beck, but the Gainesville High graduate is hoping to emulate the Jefferson High grad's path to professional baseball.
Gonzalez -- who helped lead the Red Elephants to an undefeated regular season, a Region 8-AAA crown and the Class AAA semifinals in 2012 -- was drafted by the New York Mets in the final round of the Major League Baseball draft on Wednesday.
It was far below where the pitcher, who has already signed to play for the University of Georgia, hoped to be selected.
"I was told by a lot of scouts that I'd go a lot higher," said Gonzalez, a right-hander who was taken with pick No. 1,220 (the 40th round). "But I had already told everyone that if I wasn't going before pick No. 106 that I wouldn't go (into professional baseball) and that I was going to Georgia."
It's a choice he hopes will lead to a much higher draft status in three-four years time. It certainly worked out that way for Beck.
Beck, also a right-handed pitcher, was originally taken in the 35th round of the 2006 draft by the Cleveland Indians but opted to play collegiately for Georgia Southern instead.
On Tuesday he was taken in the second round as the 76th overall player in the draft by the Chicago White Sox.
A preseason All-American, Beck, went 6-7 with a 3.91 ERA in 16 starts for the Eagles. The junior totaled back-to-back 100 strikeout seasons with 115 strikeouts in 2012 against just 29 walks. The impressive campaign followed a stellar sophomore year in which Beck went 9-5 with a 3.23 ERA -- after going 2-4 with a 8.31 ERA in his freshman campaign. Beck was also named Most Outstanding Player of the Southern Conference tournament during his sophomore season.
Gonzalez, meanwhile, -- who is already on campus in Athens, taking summer classes -- says he is ready to improve his game and focus on his collegiate career.
"It was kind of emotional on Tuesday when I didn't get drafted where I wanted -- I didn't even watch the draft (on Wednesday)," said Gonzalez, who received a call from the Mets organization to tell him of the pick. "I told them I appreciated it, but that I wasn't going to sign. The scout, who is their scout for this area, told me he wasn't expecting me to sign, but that he was really high on me.
"I know what I have here at Georgia, and I'm going to take advantage of that and use this as motivation to get better. Just being part of the draft is a big accomplishment."
Gonzalez says he expects to immediately battle for a slot in the Bulldogs' starting rotation.
"If you watched this season, freshmen like David Sosebee and Luke Crumley (both pitchers from White County) all got their opportunities," said Gonzalez, who added he would like to increase the velocity on his fastball. "I topped out around 96 (miles per hour) this year and sat around 92-94, but I want to get that velocity as high as I can. And of course I want to get more effective around the strike zone and be more efficient with my pitches. I'm going to work my butt off in the weight room, get on the nutrition plan and get my arm stronger. That's going to help out all my pitches."
Gonzalez finished his final campaign with the Red Elephants with an 11-1 record an ERA just over 1.00, helping Gainesville to its first state semifinal appearance since 2002 after leading the way for the program's first-ever undefeated regular season.
"I feel like I had a good year, and we did some great things this year, but I would give anything to go back and play those final playoff games again," said Gonzalez, who saw his team knocked out by Ringgold in three games in the semifinal round. "We felt like we had that series, and we gave it away. Still, everything happens for a reason, and I'm going to learn from that semifinal loss and get better because of it.
"We had a great senior class, and it was great to see Ryan (Griffith) and Stephen (Mason) also sign. And I probably had the most fun I've ever had in a season this year. Hopefully in three years we're not even talking about my pick falling into the 100s."
-- NOTE: Griffith signed to play for Furman, while Mason will play for Georgia Perimeter.