Mariners take Zimmerman in 19th round

Jeff Zimmerman spent Saturday afternoon listening to MLB.com's live stream of the 2013 amateur draft at his home in Tinley Park.

When the 19th round rolled around, so did a surreal feeling for the Northern Illinois junior first baseman, as Zimmerman was selected by the Seattle Mariners with the 567th pick.

"When I heard it, it was an incredible moment," Zimmerman told the Daily Chronicle. "It’s unreal, it’s been unreal. I'm so thankful for the opportunity the Seattle Mariners have gave me."

Zimmerman hit a team-high .321 for the Huskies this season. The junior didn’t homer, but led NIU in RBIs (30) and slugging percentage (.427). The Tinley Park native and Andrew High product started all 56 games for NIU, which won the Mid-American Conference West Division, and got on base at a .380 clip.

Zimmerman was a second-team All-MAC selection for NIU this year after being a first-team pick as a freshman in 2011. In his career, Zimmerman is a .306 hitter with17 home runs and 106 RBIs. He has a .376 on-base percentage and has slugged .462. Zimmerman's home run power didn't show this spring, but he tied a Madison Mallards single-season record with 13 homers in the Northwoods League last summer.

Pro scouts are always around NIU's campus during the season, and Huskies coach Ed Mathey said he had conversations with the Mariners about Zimmerman. Mathey said Zimmerman's offense, as well as his defense, he made just three errors this year, were attractive to pro scouts.

“[Scouts] see a guy that’s got a pretty good body, he’s got a good left-handed swing that’s got some potential to develop, a guy that can be a consistent gap hitter and power guy," Mathey said. "...I think they see that, and a guy who’s pretty athletic for his position. He played pretty good defense.”

This is the second consecutive season NIU has had a player picked in MLB's June draft. Left-handed pitcher Jake Hermsen was selected in the 28th round by the Dodgers last season. He's currently with the Great Lakes Loons of the Class A Midwest League.

With one year of eligibility left, Zimmerman will have the opportunity to sign with the Mariners and begin his minor league career in short-season ball this summer, or return to NIU for his senior season.

Right now, he's just enjoying things before that process begins.

“For now, the main thing is I’m just enjoying this opportunity I may have," he said. "It was a great moment.”