Toccoa, GA,
22
August
2018
|
12:00 PM
America/Chicago

A Pick of Positivity

Baseball team surprises agent’s brother with a draft call.

In 2016, Matt Klug’s mother died. A little more than a year later, the teenager’s father died. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and emphysema took her; cancer took him. Both were 57 years old.

The high school sweethearts were just a few weeks from celebrating the 40th anniversary of their first date.

Matt, a baseball player, was still at Brookwood (Ga.) High School at the time. He stayed on top of his honors-level classes and did his best to stay sharp at his game, while spending as much time as possible alongside his dad’s hospital bed.

“Once our dad passed, Matt moved in with me and my family,” says Patrick Klug, a two-year agent in Toccoa, Ga. “He commuted 45 minutes to school one way every day. He kept his grades up, and he did his best to keep practicing the game he loves to play.

“But he walked at graduation with no parents or grandparents there.”

During Matt’s senior year, his team reached the high school state semifinals led by a senior catcher who was a member of USA Baseball’s 18-under National Team. Professional and college scouts followed the team all season. Not only were they watching the star catcher, but they were also learning the tragic story of a backup outfielder named Matt Klug.

“At one point, one scout pulled Matt aside and said he wished all of the players he drafted had the character and courage that he did,” says Patrick.

In June, Matt was in Patrick’s office to follow the professional draft selections online. His star teammate was taken as the 69th overall selection. Later, Matt’s phone rang. It was his high school coach.

“He went outside to answer it,” Patrick says. “When he came back in, he had this weird look on his face. He told me, ‘A Chicago White Sox scout wants to talk to me.’”

So, Matt called the White Sox to see what they wanted. “They’re going to draft me,” a stunned Matt told his brother.

Later in the draft, Matt, an average ballplayer, watched his name get called in the 38th round. The White Sox invited him to be interviewed by 12 reporters from Chicago via conference call.

One scout pulled Matt aside and said he wished all of the players he drafted had the character and courage that he did.

In August, the White Sox brought Matt and Patrick to Chicago to be part of an orientation process for draft picks. He was given a White Sox jersey with No. 18 on the back to represent the year he was drafted.

The Klugs toured the facility, visited with scouts and other draft picks and more interviews with reporters. He also threw out the ceremonial first pitch along with Olympic gold-medal winning softball player Jennie Finch.

“They really rolled out the red carpet for us,” says Patrick. “Matt wasn’t drafted for his ability on the field,” Patrick says, “but to recognize him for how he handled everything he had been through and how he had persevered. It was the coolest thing.”

The White Sox weren’t the only team interested. Patrick’s office is about an hour north of Atlanta, and the native Georgians have been lifetime Braves fans. The Braves public relations office called with an invitation from two big leaguers to attend a game as their guests.

“We got to go down on the field,” Patrick says. “The two players came out to talk to us. One put an arm around Matt and said, ‘I just want to give you a hug.’”

Patrick says the circumstances that led to the recognition Matt received were difficult. But the recognition through baseball is helping the family heal from their losses.

“Matt was a great leader, even though he didn’t play much,” Patrick says. “He was the first one out of the dugout to congratulate a teammate. He was a very important part of that team.”

Matt won’t report to the White Sox minor leagues with the other draft picks as he has hung up his baseball spikes. Instead, he plans to attend the University of North Georgia in the fall.

“He’s excited to start this new chapter of his life,” Patrick says. “I couldn’t be more proud of him. He focused on what was important.”