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For Dodgers' Magill, steady climb to big league camp

For Dodgers' Magill, steady climb to big league camp

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Something as simple as the location of clubhouse lockers can illustrate the ironies in professional baseball.

One example in the Dodgers' Spring Training clubhouse finds pitcher Matt Magill, a 2008 31st-round Draft pick in his first big league camp, seated next to Yasiel Puig, a $42 million signing from Cuba in his first big league camp. Magill has slowly and steadily climbed his way onto the 40-man roster with little fanfare after five seasons of Minor League bus rides. Puig took the bullet train.

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In Saturday's exhibition opener, the camp was buzzing over Puig's gap double and Bo Jackson-like running style. Magill, the Dodgers' No. 7 prospect, merely struck out three in 1 1/3 innings. Magill flies under the radar and has no problem with that.

"I like being the guy people ask, 'Who's that?'" he said. "That's the way it's always been with me. But I want to become the story. I want it to be, 'Where did this guy come from?'"

Magill came from Simi Valley, Calif., hometown of Jeff and Jered Weaver. Told by scouts he'd be picked in the top 12 rounds, Magill said he still can't explain why he fell in the 2008 Draft. The Dodgers took him at the suggestion of then-scout and now bullpen coach Chuck Crim, and gave him a generous $75,000 to turn down a scholarship from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Magill has since grinded his way through the system, while the organization's focus has been on flashy first-round pitchers like Chris Withrow, Ethan Martin, Aaron Miller, Zach Lee and Chris Reed.

"The money part never bothered me," Magill said, glancing over at Puig. "Those guys get the attention and they get more chances to perform. It's harder for the guys who get less money. But I feel it drive me. It's still possible to make it. I want to send a message to all the young guys that it's still possible.

"That's why I always liked the Mike Piazza story, a 62nd-rounder at a tough position like catcher. Look where he came from and what he did, overcoming adversity that makes you stronger. In the scheme of things, yeah, it would be nice to get all that money. But I keep telling myself, my payday is coming soon. I'd rather be paid to pitch in front of 50,000 people."

Growing up in the Southland and attending games at Dodger Stadium, Magill admired starter Chan Ho Park and Cy Young Award-winning closer Eric Gagne. The righty also knows all the achievements of franchise legend Sandy Koufax and has asked to work with the Hall of Famer in his next bullpen session.

"I love to listen and learn," he said. "I use my ears."

Magill said it was crucial for him to perform well in his "debut" Saturday.

"I was nervous in the bullpen, but when I got out there, it was just the mound and the plate," he said. "That was huge for me. Now they can put a face with the name and it's not just guys hearing about me in a meeting. They can see I'm for real."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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