Baseball – Shane Panzini Signs Royals Contract, Begins Pro Career
On July 12 - the second day of the 2021 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft - Shane Panzini and his family waited nervously in front of a television screen until finally hearing the news that he was drafted.
One week later, Panzini - a recent graduate of Red Bank Catholic and the 2021 Shore Sports Network Player of the Year - officially signed his first professional contract and celebrated becoming a Kansas City Royal at his Spring Lake home with family and friends.
Panzini inked a contract Monday night that includes a $1 million signing bonus to join the Kansas City ball club and will fly to Arizona on Tuesday to begin his career with the Royals in extended spring training and the Rookie League. The Royals spring training complex and Rookie League home field is in Surprise, Arizona, approximately 22 miles northwest of Phoenix.
"It's a little bit of a weird feeling because I woke up today (Tuesday) and now I'm a professional baseball player and I have to start work," Panzini said. "It was good to see a lot of the people who have been part of this from the start and thank them face-to-face. The draft was kind of stressful but (Monday) was a nice way to say goodbye and thank you to a lot of the important people in my life before I start my career."
After getting acclimated to the new setting, Panzini is expected to build up before seeing live game action some time in August.
"I'm looking forward to everything," Panzini said. "I want to meet my new teammates, the coaches, see the facilities. I have never been to Arizona before, so I'm looking forward to seeing what it's all about. There is a lot to learn so I'm just looking forward to getting started."
Panzini - who was selected in the fourth round with the 108th overall selection - is one of four high school players picked by the Royals in the first four rounds of the Draft, during which Kansas City made five selections. Connecticut left-hander Frank Mazzicato was taken No. 7 overall out of East Catholic High School in Connecticut and right-hander Ben Kudrna was selected in the second round out of Blue Valley Southwest High School in Kansas, giving Panzini a pair of pitchers to develop alongside during the coming months and years.
"I think that's the plan," Panzini said. "I'm sure I'll be roommates with one of the high school guys that they took and we'll be doing a lot of the same things when we get out there."
In signing his contract with the Royals, Panzini is the officially the highest draft pick from Red Bank Catholic to ever sign with a Major League Club. Ryan Kalish was a ninth-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2006 and made his MLB debut with Boston in 2010.
Panzini was signed on to pitch at the University of Virginia but will forego his baseball scholarship in starting his professional career. Panzini will turn 20 years old later this year and had he gone to Virginia, he would have had to wait until after his sophomore season in 2023 to enter the MLB Draft again. As part of his contract, the Royals will pay for Panzini's college degree if and when he decides to pursue it.
"The chance to get an education will be there but I think the thing I'll miss is just those lifelong friendships you make when you go to college," Panzini said. "That was probably the hardest part about the decision but hopefully I'll have a chance to meet some lifelong friends playing pro ball."
By starting his pro career this summer, Panzini hopes it will result in an earlier Major League debut, even if it means more time developing in the Minor Leagues.
"The idea is that by getting started now, I would hope that gives me a chance to start moving up and hopefully get to the big leagues sooner than if I went to college," Panzini said. "But there is no guarantee of that. I think it was just more that they (the Royals) made me an offer that we were both happy with and this is what I wanted to do."
Based on its financial commitment to Panzini, the Royals have every intention to make sure the hard-throwing right-hander develops into a Major-League-caliber starting pitcher, as well as the belief that he can make it there. The MLB-recommended slot value of the 108th pick is $538,200 and the Royals nearly doubled that offer to persuade Panzini to join them now.
Mozzicato ($3.55 million) signed for nearly $2 million under the recommended slot value ($5.43 million), which allowed them to go over slot value for both Kudrna ($3 million) and Panzini.
According to MLB.com, Panzini is the sixth 2021 Royals draft pick to sign with the team so far.
"It's good to get that first check but if everything goes like I hope, this (signing bonus) will be pennies compared to what I make over the rest of my career," Panzini said. "I want to pitch at a high level for a long time so if I can do that, I think the money side will take care of itself over time. Right now, I'm just ready to learn as much as I can."