MASON, Ohio – At 9:07 p.m. Thursday night, T.J. Zeuch received a phone call that instantly changed his life forever.
The University of Pittsburgh standout pitcher and 2013 Mason High School graduate had been following the Major League Baseball Draft on MLB Network inside the Zeuch family home in Mason.
With more than a dozen of his closest family and friends along with a few media members by his side, the group intently watched the TV.
A table of deli meats, bread and a fruit tray complete with MLB plates and napkins awaited the guests in the next room.
A collage of photographs, articles and memorabilia were on display in another room and included his Pitt jersey and hat. Balloons hung outside next to the front door.
Back inside, everyone in the room watched intently. Zeuch sat just to the left of the TV with his girlfriend. He checked his phone closely.
As each selection was announced by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, Zeuch’s family knew the 6-foot-8 right-handed pitcher’s time was near.
The suspense was palpable. Zeuch said little. He had a knot in his stomach since he woke up Thursday morning.
In fact, Zeuch practiced some pitching this week while he was at home, but he mostly stayed away from watching SportsCenter or any baseball programming. He simply wanted to relax.
It was a tough notion given the numerous media requests and he and his family trying to figure out where he may be selected.
Shortly after 9 p.m., Zeuch, resplendent in a dark suit, stepped out into a family room and the living room was suddenly quiet. Zeuch summoned his father Tim into an impromptu private meeting.
Father and son didn’t reveal any insight to those in attendance at the time, but T.J. was told by his agent, Joe Brennan, he had 90 seconds to accept the terms the Toronto Blue Jays were willing to offer with the No. 21 pick or what another team had offered. The difference was a few hundred thousand dollars.
T.J. and Tim walked back into the room without any expression. Poker face was more like it.
The commercial break felt like an eternity, especially since T.J. knew his selection would be called next.
Then, Manfred read from the podium in Secaucus, N.J., that the Blue Jays had selected the 20-year-old Zeuch – making him the highest draft pick in University of Pittsburgh program history.
Zeuch’s supporters leapt from their chairs and cheered for the newest American League addition. T.J. hugged his parents Tim and Lisa in the center of the room.
When T.J. heard his name announced, he had a sigh of relief. “It’s unexplainable,” he said.
Cameras caught the moment of the jubilee, but couldn’t replicate the inner joy his family felt.
“It’s off the charts,” Tim said.
Tears of joy took center stage for the 30 minutes. Lisa had trouble holding back the tears in the kitchen. She couldn't contain how proud she was for her son.
T.J.’s phone rapidly added text messages. This was his moment to cherish.
“The culmination of 15 years of just hard work and a dream really come true,” T.J. said. “Since I was 5 years old throwing a baseball for the first time this has been an absolute dream of mine.”
Zeuch flourished at Pitt for three seasons. He concluded his Pitt career ranking seventh on the all-time strikeout list with 205. He was 6-1 in 10 starts this spring after missing the first four weeks of injury. He led the Pitt staff with a 3.10 ERA and had 74 strikeouts.
“I could not be more proud of T.J.,” Pitt baseball coach Joe Jordano told WCPO.com late Thursday night. “As I said before, T.J. deserves everything coming his way. He earned it. I have no doubt he will ascend steadily.”
That ascension will likely take him north of the border this summer with the Vancouver Canadians, the Short-Season A team for the Blue Jays.
Zeuch still needs to get his passport and figure out his next step. Terms of the agreement with Toronto were not announced Thursday night, but the Blue Jays don't expect any signing concerns. The assigned value for the pick is $2,285,100.
Zeuch wore Monopoly socks on Thursday night, but he will have a real significant financial gain shortly.
And another thing is for sure: No one in the Zeuch home Thursday night will ever forget the moment when T.J. was selected to play Major League Baseball.
“It was amazing just to have an opportunity to see T.J. get drafted,” Mason coach Curt Bly said. “He’s a guy who has always been a tireless worker. You will always knew this was going to happen for him.”