Allan Mack spent four years at home as a “Mr. Mom” for his three young children when his wife, Christina, returned to her job as a physical education teacher in the Sweet Home school district several years back.
Mack, an independent contractor, spent a lot of that time teaching the kids how to play sports. Christina recalled how Al would play baseball in the basement with the kids, designating certain spots on the wall for extra-base hits.
On Sunday night inside the Denver Convention Center, those memories came flooding back for the Macks, who watched proudly as their youngest child, Joe, was taken 31st by the Marlins and became the first Buffalo-area player taken in the first round of the MLB draft since 1978.
“Yes, absolutely,” Allan Mack said Monday morning from Denver. “I was thrilled. It was just the culmination of everything leading up to that. It was just unreal. The atmosphere in that room was just tremendous.
“It was so much fun and I’m just glad to be a part of it,” he said. “I know a lot of the players chose not to be there, maybe for different reasons, but to be there was just, it was like the icing on the cake.”
Joe Mack, a lefty hitting catcher, was an MLB prospect before he entered high school at Williamsville East. At 12, he won the Home Run Derby in Cooperstown, breaking Bryce Harper’s record. In seventh grade, he batted cleanup on a Will East team with his older brother, Charles, who was drafted in the sixth round by the Twins in 2018.
Mack had been projected to go as high as 19th overall in Sunday’s draft, the first ever conducted as part of the All-Star Game festivities in the host city.
But back in May, the Macks had said they were taking nothing for granted. An MLB draft can be a difficult thing to predict, and the mock drafts can be misleading.
So when the draft moved along and Joe was still on the board, things got a little nervous for the Macks.
“Yeah, a little bit,” Allan said. “At the beginning of the late teens, the phone was ringing. There were some offers that came in that would have taken Joe off the board earlier.”
The average fan doesn’t understand how much negotiating goes on behind the scenes at an MLB draft, with teams trying to decide how to distribute their bonus money and agents and prospects determining whether they should sign or opt for a different deal.
Mack has an offer to play college baseball at Clemson, which recruited him as far back as the eighth grade. But there wasn’t much chance of Joe playing in college if he got drafted high enough. At 31 overall, he went in the competitive balance part of the first round. That should still be worth a signing bonus in the $2 million range.
Back in May, in an interview with WIVB.com, Joe Mack sounded like a young man who planned to go straight into professional baseball, an old baseball soul who lived for the game and would play it for free if he had to.
“Three million is great,” he said at the time, referring to the average signing bonus for a player taken 20th. “But going to play for a team is my No. 1 goal. It’s the thrill of being able to go and play on a team. I would just love to go and play baseball.”
Allan Mack said Joe is almost surely going to sign with the Marlins, likely within the next week.
“His agent is going to have to hammer out all the details,” he said. “The final numbers, the money for college (guaranteed tuition after his MLB career), have to be determined. There may be some loose ends that have to be figured out, and once that’s done, Joe will fly down there, have to take a physical.
“As long as as everything goes as it was discussed yesterday, and it should, then he’s going to be a Marlin.”
Joe will be working for Derek Jeter, who is CEO and part-owner of the Miami franchise.
“As a matter of fact, he spoke with Derek Jeter after the draft,” Allan said. “Just briefly, but Derek Jeter congratulated him and welcome him to the organization. Very exciting.”
It was an exciting night for the entire Mack clan. Allan and Christina were in the audience. So was Charles, who is now catching for Minnesota’s Class A team in Fort Myers. Christy, the middle child who played college softball at Hartford and has since retired from the game, was also in attendance.
“It was definitely special,” Allan said. “Our whole family was there, and Ron Bernick from Hot Corner Athletics, where the two of them work out, was there, enjoyed the experience with us. But for Charles to be here was such a bonus.”
Allan said Christina, who played volleyball at Cortland State, was thrilled to see another son drafted.
“She thought when his name was called she might break down or something,” he said. “But she was pretty good. Today, it’s been a little bit emotional. I think it takes a little time for that to set in. You see posts with such kind words toward our children and our family. It really is moving.”
The experience isn’t done, either. The Macks will be MLB’s guests at Monday night’s Home Run Derby at Coors Field and the annual All-Star Game at Coors on Tuesday night.
“They’re doing this thing right,” Allan Mack said. “It’s so much fun. Our whole family will be there. Charles will be here tonight for the Home Run Derby, but he has to get back on Tuesday for the Twins.”
Charles and his younger brother will have a night to remember. Dad said the boys were up until 4 a.m. — 6 in the morning Buffalo time. You can imagine the boys looking ahead to a time when they might be starting catchers for opposing squads in an MLB game.
“Joe is going to be sleeping for a while,” his father said. “Then he has some press stuff that he has to do in a little bit. It’s going to be fun-filled.”
Jerry Sullivan is an award-winning journalist who joined the News 4 team in 2020 after three decades as a sports columnist at The Buffalo News. See more of his work here.