Michael Curry didn’t have much time to bask in the glow of getting drafted by an MLB team.
After the San Diego Padres picked Curry last Wednesday in the 16th round of this year’s draft, he spent the following days in constant communication with the club. The Gainesville High graduate then hopped on a Sunday flight to the team’s spring training complex in Peoria, Arizona, where he took a physical and signed his contract Monday.
He’ll be airborne again Wednesday, this time to join the Padres’ Single-A Short Season affiliate in Pasco, Washington. Curry’s first game with the Tri-City Dust Devils — and as a professional baseball player — is set for Friday.
“It’s been crazy, been a quick turnaround,” he said. “It’s been hectic, but in a good way, if that makes sense. … Everything happened very fast, but I’m happy with it.”
Following a standout stint with the Red Elephants and three years as a starter at the University of Georgia, Curry is taking the first steps of what he hopes will be a long and fruitful pro career.
He reaped some of the rewards Monday when he inked a $125,000 deal with the Padres, which he said includes coverage for college tuition when he eventually returns to Athens to complete his computer science degree.
“I hope I make it to the top and make a living out of this game, but it will end one day,” Curry said. “I’m absolutely going to come back and get my degree. During my time at Georgia, I took a lot of pride in my academics.”
Curry showed that by landing on the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll, but his accomplishments on the diamond are what made him a desirable prospect for San Diego.
As a junior season this season, the second team All-SEC selection posted team-highs in batting average (.322), RBIs (53) and hits (75). His 13 home runs and .532 slugging percentage were second on the Bulldogs only to ninth-round draft pick Keegan McGovern.
Curry started all but seven games over his three seasons with Georgia, which most recently went 39-21, earned the No. 8 national seed in the NCAA Tournament and hosted a regional for the first time since 2008.
Despite Duke ultimately advancing out of the regional, the 2015 Gainesville graduate hit .412 with three home runs, three doubles and six RBIs in the Bulldogs’ four tournament games.
Two days after Georgia was eliminated, the Padres selected Curry with the 471st overall pick in the draft. He had already been in contact with Michael Gettys — a fellow Red Elephants grad drafted by San Diego in 2014 — and former Georgia teammate Stephen Wrenn about what to expect from professional baseball.
“They are resources I can use as far as knowing how things go,” Curry said. “It’s good to have those people in my corner. This is my job now. It’s not just playing baseball anymore; it’s my career. That’s cool to say.
“I’m excited for the opportunity ... but the bottom line is that I’m going out and playing baseball every day.”
He’s about to jump right into that reality in the Single-A Short Season, where he wants to sharpen his defense. Curry said he’ll be primarily in the outfield, which he manned this year after spending his first two seasons catching for the Bulldogs, while getting a bit of work at first base.
Once the Dust Devils’ brief season ends Sept. 3, Curry anticipates being sent to an instructional league as he tries to rise through the minors.
It’ll likely be a long climb, as it is for most trying to make a major league roster, but Curry has already come such a long way.
During his flight to Peoria — rare moments of quiet in the chaotic days since he was drafted — the Gainesville product reflected on what it took to reach this point, all the way back to the daily childhood hitting sessions with his father in his hometown of Murphy, North Carolina.
“Getting drafted has always been a huge dream of mine, but the bigger goal is to make it to the big leagues one day,” Curry said. “ … I’ve had a big support group, including my parents. We all did this, and we’re not done either. There’s a long road ahead. The journey just started.”