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O's pick hard-throwing Bonilla, son of former All-Star

O's pick hard-throwing Bonilla, son of former All-Star

One of Brandon Bonilla's earliest memories comes from just five days after his fourth birthday and involves champagne -- lots and lots of champagne.

It was Oct. 26, 1997. Game 7 of the World Series between the Indians and the Florida Marlins. Just hours earlier, Brandon's father, Bobby Bonilla, had hit a leadoff home run in the seventh inning to start a comeback that would give the Marlins their first World Series title.

After 11 innings and a 3-2 victory, Bobby would get to celebrate with his son as a champion.

"I just remember the champagne going all over the place," Brandon said. "I was so young at the time. I was so nervous, but I do remember just that one glimpse."

Brandon, a left-handed pitcher from Grand Canyon, became the Orioles' 25th-round selection in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft on Saturday, and should he decide to forgo his final year of eligibility at GCU, he'll join his father -- the five-time All-Star -- as the second member of his family to play professional baseball.

Of course, Brandon has benefited from his father's Major League experience. He spent time in big league clubhouses, including the one in Baltimore, where his father played from 1995-96.

"You walk in to Camden Yards," Brandon said, "and you just feel baseball."

Inside Major League clubhouses, Brandon got a feel for how the pros went about their daily life. That helped him just as much as the sage advice from his father, and godfather Barry Bonds.

Bobby befriended Bonds when the two were teammates for the Pirates from 1986-91 and the home run champion agreed to be Brandon's godfather. Bobby and Bonds combined for more than 1,000 home runs in their career, but Brandon flashes his power from the mound.

"I've always loved hitting, and I still do to this day. There's going to be times where I just go to the cage and hit," Brandon said. "I felt really confident that I could get to the next level with pitching, so I just kept pitching."

Brandon primarily throws two pitches and is fastball dominant. His heater gets up into the mid-to-high 90s, although he does have command issues, and his curveball is an effective secondary pitch. He sometimes throws a splitter and is working on developing a changeup.

As a power lefty with quality stuff and a 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame, his potential is evident.

"He's got tremendous upside," Grand Canyon head coach Andy Stankiewicz said. "I think he'd be the first to tell you he's a work in progress."

"He needs some professionalizing," O's director of scouting Gary Rajsich added.

Brandon transferred to GCU after playing his freshman season at perennial power Arizona State. At the time, the Antelopes played in Division II and the fact that someone would transfer from mighty ASU to little-known Grand Canyon caught his new teammates more off-guard than his famous lineage. They were simply too far removed from an era when Bonilla was a star.

"I don't even think most of my players would know who Don Mattingly was if he didn't manage the Dodgers," Stankiewicz said.

The day that Bonilla arrived on campus, Stankiewicz sat him down and told him to just try to "be a part of the guys."

Like any newcomer in an already molded clubhouse, there were some growing pains at first, but he ultimately fit in to become a staple. During his first season with the 'Lopes, Bonilla led all relievers with 24 appearances and went 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA.

Even last season, when he had to sit out due to academics, Bonilla was at every practice and in the dugout for every home game.

Soon enough, the only person who would ever give Bonilla a hard time was himself.

"I'm just trying to get him to relax," Stankiewicz said. "When you're dad's Bobby Bonilla -- a Major League ballplayer -- you put a little pressure on yourself. You want to live up to some people's expectations. I think that's always there."

His academic issues this past year made him difficult to scout. The Orioles were relegated to working him out and having him pitch in situations, rather than actual games. Still, it was enough for Baltimore to see a potential "huge arm," Rajsich said.

The O's know there is a good chance Bonilla could return to school for his senior year, though. Bobby wants his son to get his degree, Stankiewicz said. For now, Brandon has six weeks to weigh a couple quality options.

"I like where I'm at," Bonilla said. "I can go to college, I can pursue my career with the Orioles. So we'll just see how it goes day by day."

David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["draft_central" ,"prospect" ] }
{"event":["draft_central" ,"prospect" ] }