SIGNAL PEAK – Central Arizona College pitcher Mat Olsen nearly had the opportunity to live out his dream last year in the 2020 Major League Baseball draft.

Due to the pandemic, the baseball draft was cut down dramatically from 40 rounds to five rounds last year, but Olsen did receive a call from his advisor in the fifth round saying that a team was interested, unfortunately that decision fell through, and he was not drafted in 2020.

The Florence graduate returned to CAC for the 2021 season and helped lead the Vaqueros to a second-place finish in the National Junior College Athletic Association.

During this year’s MLB draft, Olsen finally heard his named called in the ninth round as he was selected by the San Francisco Giants, the same team that had passed on him the year before.

“It almost feels like it was meant to be,” Olsen said. “The Giants were only one of two or three teams that were really interested in me last year after the five-round draft, so for them to take me this year it meant a lot to me to know that they kind of kept watching and they didn’t give up because it didn’t work out last year.”

He told PinalCentral that the San Diego Padres had made an offer in the sixth round, but it wasn’t what he was looking for. His advisor began communicating with him in the eighth round and said that there was a chance the Giants could pick him in the next three rounds.

“It was a stressful day,” Olsen said. “I think everyone thinks it’s all rainbows and unicorns and stuff when this happens, but it’s a really stressful process. It’s a lot of sitting and waiting, and just waiting for your phone to go off.”

Olsen had committed to Arizona State University but will instead sign his contract with the Giants on Saturday.

“I want to get everything going as soon as I can,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t really care about anything else now, I really just want to start playing and show that I belong there.”

Making it to the big leagues has been his dream ever since he was a little kid and while he did take time to enjoy the moment when he was drafted, Olsen has already begun to get into the mindset that nothing changes now that he’s part of the Giants organization.

“In my mind as long as I do what I’m supposed to do I feel that I can compete at any level there is,” he said. “Now it’s all about proving that I belong there and that I belong at every step from here on out.”

Olsen is thankful for this time at CAC and really credits the coaching staff for where he is today. He added the coaches could have easily cut him from the team when he was freshman rather than redshirting him, but they saw something special in him and because of that decision he eventually became the ace of the pitching staff in his final season.

“I didn’t go to Vanderbilt out of high school, I didn’t go to these big-name schools,” he said. “I went to a junior college, and I remember talking a lot of crap for it in high school. I was supposed to be going to this big school and stuff and I ended up at a junior college, 20 minutes away from my house.”

The former Florence standout never thought that his dream was too big or out of reach for him because he always believed in himself and didn't have any doubts about what he was capable of.

His advice for kids who grow up in small towns like Florence is to stick to a process and to not change it constantly whenever things get difficult.

“The kids up in the valley are always going to have a little bit of an edge,” Olsen said. “My biggest thing is don’t think about that stuff when you’re playing, if you work hard and you get around the right group of people anything is possible. … Just trust that everything is going to work out in the end.”

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Maria Vasquez is the Sports Editor for PinalCentral. She can be reached at mvasquez@pinalcentral.com.