PITTSBURGH — When the Pittsburgh Pirates selected catcher Blake Sabol in the seventh round of the 2019 MLB Draft, it wasn’t a pick that came with a lot of fanfare.
The second day of the MLB Draft is typically a space that only hardcore baseball fans navigate, and even amongst them, the pick of Sabol a 6-foot-4 junior that hit .268 this year at USC, didn’t move the needle for most Pirates fans.
But it certainly did for Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster was a junior in the fall of 2016, when Sabol first arrived on USC’s campus.
Even thought Smith-Schuster was the elder Trojan athlete, he sought out Sabol due to a family connection. Sabol’s cousin is former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.
“It’s so funny man, when he came in, I was like a year older than him, and I was like, ‘Yo bro, I’m a big fan (of Polamalu),’” recalled Smith-Schuster. “Years later, we’re playing in that same city.”
Sabol came to Pittsburgh to officially sign his contract with the Pirates on Tuesday, and will be spending his first pro season in Morgantown with the Pirates’ short-season Class-A affiliate, the West Virginia Black Bears.
When he came to Pittsburgh, he met up with his fellow former Trojan.
“I was just showing him around,” Smith-Schuster said. “It’s good to have another SC dude in the building.”
The Black Bears start their season on Friday.