Grant Little has only been with the Tri-City Dust Devils for a week, but he already feels at home. The gorgeous sunsets at Gesa Stadium in Pasco have helped the transition.
"I had no idea where this place was," Little said. "It's beautiful. The sky looks like West Texas."
The San Diego Padres drafted the outfielder with the 74th overall pick in last month's Major League Baseball draft, but they had to wait for him to finish the season with Texas Tech before they could sign and assign him within their system.
A native of Midland, Texas, Little and Texas Tech advanced to the College World Series, where they were eliminated by Florida on June 21. He signed with the Padres a week later.
"I had a couple of days to go home and see family," he said. "Then I went to San Diego for a physical, then here.
"I'm excited to finally play baseball. I had a few days off — I had an itch."
Little was a bonus pick
Typically, there is no trading of draft picks in MLB. The one exception are picks in the competitive balance rounds — compensatory picks awarded to teams that lose high-value free agents.
That's where San Diego got its mitts on Little.
A week before the draft, the Padres traded minor leaguer Janigson Villalobos to the Minnesota Twins for pricey veteran pitcher Phil Hughes, cash and a Competitive Balance Round B draft pick between the second and third rounds.
The Padres used the slot to draft Little with their third pick on the first day of the draft.
"I thought there was a chance I could be drafted on the first day," said Little, the highest draft pick from Texas Tech since 2012 (Barrett Barnes, 45th).
"Somewhere around 55-65. I'm not going to complain."
The right choice
Little grew up playing basketball and baseball for Midland Christian High School. He was a two-time all-state player in both sports, but he ultimately chose baseball over the sport that put the family on the map.
His dad, Mike, who is 6-foot-4, played basketball at Baylor University and was a two-year captain for the Bears.
His uncle, Richard Little (6-3), played basketball at Texas Tech, and was one of the premier players in Red Raiders history.
Another uncle, David Little (6-7), played hoops at Oklahoma, where he was named one of the 15 members of the All-Century Team in 2007. He was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in the third round of the 1983 NBA Draft.
But at 6-1, Grant knew baseball was a better option.
"I felt like I couldn't make a living playing basketball," he said. "It was the best decision."
Texas Tech was the only major scholarship offered to Little, and he jumped at the chance to stay close to home.
After an outstanding redshirt freshman season with the Red Raiders, Little upped his game this season, hitting .370 with 12 home runs, 25 doubles and 80 RBIs in 65 starts. He had nine RBIs in one game — only the third Texas Tech player to accomplish the feat.
Though he had two more years of college eligibility, Little choose to sign with the Padres. The signing bonus slotted for where he was drafted is $812,200.
"You dream about playing pro ball since you were a kid," Little said. "You get drafted that high, it's not a hard decision to make. I thought it was the right time to take the next step. I felt I was ready mentally and physically."
On the field
Little mainly played left field for Texas Tech, but his heart is in center field.
"There's more action in center field," he said.
He's gotten to play both for the Dust Devils, and College World Series fans may remember a highlight-reel catch at the wall in left against Florida.
But where he's most likely to shine right away is at the plate.
"I like the one-on-one battles," Little said. "I'm more of an offensive player, but I'm no slouch in the outfield either."
In his first five games for Tri-City, Little is hitting .389 (7 for 18) with a double, four RBIs and two stolen bases. Keep that up, and chances are he won't be around the Tri-Cities for long.
"Obviously, the goal is to make it to the big leagues as fast as possible," Little said.