NORMAL — An outstanding end to his college career has led to the beginning of a new chapter in Luke Stewart’s baseball life.
The former Alabama-Birmingham and Normal Community West High School star was taken Tuesday by the New York Mets in the 20th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Stewart belted 21 home runs this spring as a UAB senior and tied the school record for career homers with 49. He also drove in 64 runs this season while earning first-team all-Conference USA honors.
“I kind of thought it might be them,” Stewart said of the Mets. “I talked to them a few times down at school. I’m just happy to get drafted.
“Being a senior, I didn’t have any leverage as far as having to take me early (in the draft) or money or anything. I didn’t have any school left. The 20th round is pretty good for a senior.”
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound first baseman was the 602nd player taken overall. He finished his career at UAB on a tear, hitting .344 with 11 homers and 25 RBI in his final 17 games.
Stewart, son of former Illinois State head coach and current San Diego Padres scout Jeff Stewart, was drafted by the Padres in the 41st round following his senior year at Normal West. He went to the University of Georgia instead and transferred to UAB for his final three seasons.
“I probably could have gone out of high school. But the things you learn in college help you every day,” Stewart said. “I think I’m a lot more mature now. I got stronger and I probably have more power in my swing now. I also got faster.
“I think I’m definitely more ready for pro ball and the ultimate goal of getting to the big leagues.”
Stewart is unsure where he will begin his professional career, saying, “They (the Mets) told me they would tell me in the next few days where I would be going and the signing process and all of that. They told me just to enjoy it for a few days.”
Tuesday’s portion of the draft included rounds two through 30. The final 20 rounds are today.