MESA, Ariz. - University of California San Diego standout Tyler Durna has signed a professional contract with the Chicago Cubs of Major League Baseball (MLB).
Durna, a first baseman out of Chino Hills (Ruben S. Ayala HS), thus will forgo his final season of college eligibility. The Cubs' 15th-round selection (No. 458) during the 2018 MLB First-Year Player Draft on June 6, he had until July 6 to either sign his first pro contract, or return to UC San Diego for his senior campaign.
"I had a very good time at UCSD," said Durna via email from Arizona. "I will be forever grateful for the opportunities Coach (Eric) Newman and the coaching staff gave me. I would not be where I am today without their constant belief in me. The last three years, I met and played with a great group of guys. Two trips to the World Series will be something I will remember the rest of my life. I will miss everything about UCSD, and I am thankful for all the doors UCSD has opened for me."
Durna signed his contract at the Cubs' Spring Training facility in Mesa, Ariz., on June 19, and remained there temporarily, getting assigned initially to the AZL Cubs 2 of the Rookie-level Arizona League. He made his professional debut on June 26 in Goodyear, Ariz., and as the starting first baseman batting fifth against the AZL Indians 1, went 1-for-3. After a popout and a groundout, his first pro hit was a one-out RBI single to center in the sixth inning. He walked in his final plate appearance in the eighth.
In just his third pro game on June 28, back in Goodyear, Durna, went 2-for-4 with a double, two sacrifice flies, two runs and six RBI in a 17-10 romp over the AZL Indians 2. His two-run double in the third marked a first extra-base hit for his career. He was already promoted right after that contest, to the Class A Short Season Eugene Emeralds. Durna traveled from Arizona to Eugene, Ore., on Friday, June 29, with Cubs first-rounder Nico Hoerner, a shortstop out of Stanford, and 18th-rounder Jake Slaughter, a third baseman from LSU.
Durna was in the Emeralds' lineup at home that night at first base, in the No. 5 position. After striking out in his first at-bat, he pulled a triple, the first of his pro career, into the right field corner to lead off the fourth, before scoring on a two-out wild pitch. He would finish 2-for-4 in a 4-3 Eugene loss in 10 innings.
Durna was UC San Diego's highest selection since All-American ace Justin Donatella was also a 15th-round choice, of the Arizona Diamondbacks, in 2015 at No. 436 overall. He was the first-ever Triton drafted by the Cubs, the 2016 world champions.
Durna was a unanimous All-West Region honoree and All-California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) First Team selection for both of his final two years as a Triton. This past season, he paced the league with his 68 runs scored and 45 walks (tied), and was second on the squad with a .333 batting average. The 68 runs are sixth on UC San Diego's single-season chart, and 45 walks tied for fourth.
Durna leaves UC San Diego as a .338 (162-for-480) career hitter, with 130 starts among 140 games played, 127 runs, 30 doubles, seven triples, 14 home runs and 112 RBI. His 90 walks rank ninth in the Triton record book. Arguably the best defensive first baseman in all of the NCAA Division II, and among the best defensive players in program history, Durna's .992 fielding percentage ranks ninth in school annals, while his 1107 putouts are second-most, just 38 shy of the all-time mark.
Durna developed into a 15th-round professional draft pick after appearing in just 26 games, half the schedule, and batting .269 (18-for-67) as a true freshman in 2016. A year later in 2017, he led the club in hitting at a .363 clip. Along the way, Durna produced a 28-game hit streak, a new program standard for at least the Division II era since 2001, as well as a 41-game reached-base streak, tied for second-longest.
Durna aided UC San Diego to back-to-back 40-win seasons and West Region titles, with the Tritons finishing as national runners-up in 2017, as well as a record seventh CCAA Championship banner this past May.
Durna adds to the lead with a lead-off triple and a run in the 4th! pic.twitter.com/vj15mFZTkR— Eugene Emeralds (@EugeneEmeralds) June 30, 2018
Pure hitter. One of greatest defensive players in program history. "First-base scoops" are not a stat but Tyler Durna saved many hits and errors at 1B. Congratulations, Tyler! #UCSanDiego's highest #MLBDraft selection since All-American ace @jdonatella9 in 2015 (15/436). 👏🔱⚾️ pic.twitter.com/LnzqravcMc— UCSD Triton Baseball (@UCSDbsb) June 6, 2018