By Phil Anastasia
Joey Gatto remembers the first time he saw Mike Trout on a baseball field.
It was a Millville at Hammonton game in the Cape Atlantic League's American Division in 2009.
"He hit a home run over the centerfield fence," said Gatto, who lives in Hammonton. "I've been following his career every since."
Gatto now hopes to follow in Trout's footsteps.
Gatto, who just finished his senior year at St. Augustine Prep, on Thursday night was drafted by Trout's major-league team, the Los Angeles Angels.
The Angels selected Gatto with the 53rd overall pick in the first-year player draft.
"It's amazing just to think that we're from the same area, the same league," Gatto said. "It says a lot about South Jersey and the Cape-Atlantic League."
Trout tweeted congratulations to Gatto soon after the selection, telling him to "Represent S.J."
Said Gatto: "It's unbelievable that he did that."
Gatto played in the same division in the same league as Trout did during his career at Millville. Gatto was 7-1 with an 0.94 ERA as a senior for St. Augustine, which won the CAL American title -- beating Millville twice.
"It's great," Millville coach Roy Hallenbeck said of Gatto being selected by Trout's team. "I saw that Mike and Joey tweeted each other. Pretty cool."
Trout was selected by the Angels with the 25th pick in 2009. He rocketed through the minor league and is widely regarded as the best all-around player in baseball.
Angels scouting director Ric Wilson spoke of Gatto's potential to reporters in Los Angeles on Thursday night.
"He's a high-ceiling right-hander with really long limbs and a powerful body," Wilson said of the 6-foot-5, 215-pound Gatto.
Gatto said it was "shocking" to be drafted by the Angels as the team had not indicated its interest in him before the draft.
He said he thought he might be drafted by the Chicago Cubs at No. 45.
Gatto, who has the option of accepting a scholarship to the University of North Carolina, indicated that he was "leaning" toward signing with the Angels.
He said the Angels indicated their offer would be "above slot." The recommended signing bonus allotment for the No. 53 pick is $1,050,600.
"As of now, we're leaning that way," Gatto said of signing.
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