The Chicago Cubs announced the signing two local products Wednesday — Joe Martarano, a Boise State linebacker and Fruitland High graduate, and Andrew Ely, an Eagle High graduate.
Both have started their careers at the Cubs’ training facility in Mesa, Arizona, and are likely to eventually join the Cubs’ affiliate in the rookie-level Arizona League.
The possibility remains that both could join the Cubs’ short-season A affiliate in Boise at some point as well, but Ely said all of the 2014 draftees have yet to play for the AZL Cubs and are only going through workouts in Arizona.
Fruitland High baseball coach Russ Wright said he has no idea whether Martarano will ultimately turn his full attention to football or baseball in the coming years. But he has no doubt the Boise State linebacker would be successful if he decides on baseball.
Martarano, selected in the 22nd round of the MLB draft earlier this month, is expected to play in the minor leagues for the next five weeks before returning to the Broncos’ football team in time for the start of fall camp on July 31.
Martarano, who redshirted last season but is expected to be a key contributor on special teams this fall, received permission from Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin to give baseball a shot this summer.
“He’s really good at both and he loves both,” Wright said. “I think it’s wonderful that a young man is so talented that he has two options. Who knows where his strength lies, but if anybody can take on that undertaking and keep his head about him and go down (to Arizona) and enjoy it, it’s Joe.
“He was the most talented kid I’ve ever had. I had seventh-and ninth-round draft picks, but he’s the most talented kid, baseball-wise, in my 29 years of coaching.”
It’s likely that Martarano, who hasn’t played competitive baseball in more than a year, will need time at the Cubs’ complex to get back into baseball shape.
Martarano could play for the Cubs’ rookie-level affiliate in Arizona or for their short-season-A affiliate in Boise before putting the pads back on and returning to the gridiron late next month.
“People think in three to five years, if he can make the transition to professional pitching, he’s got more natural power than anybody in last year’s draft,” Wright said of Martarano, who was a 13th-round pick of the Phillies last June before turning down a $100,000 bonus to concentrate on his first year of college football. “That’s a pretty big statement.”
Ely signed his contract Monday and has spent the past two days working out in Arizona. As a 32nd-round pick, 949th overall, the second baseman said he weighed returning to the University of Washington for his senior year because he didn’t want to become a roster filler in the Cubs’ organization.
But the Cubs proved they saw him as a prospect, offering him a $50,000 signing bonus and guaranteeing they will pay for the final year of his business degree at Washington.
“There’s a variable that you want to be worth something to the Cubs,” Ely said from the Cubs’ training facility in Arizona. “You don’t want to have them see you as some guy they signed late in the draft and not as a big leaguer.”