CINCINNATI -- Yasmani Grandal was a young boy in Cuba when his parents and maternal grandparents were permitted to emigrate to the United States via a lottery.
Over a decade later, the financial jackpot is about to come. Now a junior-year catcher at the University of Miami, Grandal realized his piece of the American dream Monday when the Reds made him the 12th overall selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.
"This is what I came for," said Grandal, who arrived in the U.S. when he was 11 years old. "My parents moved here for a better future for me. I feel like it's getting there. Playing at a professional level will definitely make my future better. It's just been a crazy ride so far. Hopefully I get started with the Reds as soon as possible."
First things first: Grandal was speaking to Cincinnati reporters on a conference call right after his Miami team defeated Texas A&M in a NCAA regional final. He was 1-for-3 with two walks and a two-run double in the 10-3 win.
Next up is a best-of-three super regional against Florida in Gainesville on Friday as the Hurricanes are trying to reach the College World Series.
On Tuesday, it was also revealed that Grandal is one of five finalists for the Golden Spikes Award. It is given by USA Baseball annually to the top amateur player in the country.
"Out of all the players that play at the college level and Division I level, to be picked in the top five and nominated is a great honor," said Grandal, who is hitting .411 with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs in 60 games this season for the Hurricanes. He was already named the ACC's Player of the Year for 2010.
The Reds revealed Monday that they felt fortunate Grandal fell in their laps at the 12th pick. Several pre-Draft reports indicated that Grandal all but had a deal signed with the Royals, who held the fourth overall selection. He was reportedly seeking "Buster Posey" money, which would have topped over $6 million in the bonus given to the Giants catcher in 2008.
Grandal denied the accuracy of those reports.
"I didn't have any pre-Draft deals with anybody," he said. "I had no clue what was going on. I don't know where the rumor started or anything. I didn't speak with the Royals. I didn't speak with anybody. I didn't know what was going on until the day of the Draft."
The only thing Grandal does know is he's going to Cincinnati in the reasonably near future. The deadline to sign Draft picks is Aug. 16. Like most Draft picks, he says he's eager to sign but the Reds' last couple of first rounders -- Mike Leake and Yonder Alonso -- did not get done until just before the midnight ET deadline.
"I'm ready to start," said Grandal, who will be represented by agent Greg Genske. "A professional career is what I've always wanted. For the Reds to give me the opportunity to be picked in the first round ... it's just great. I'm ready to go."
Grandal, who will turn 21 in July, is a switch-hitter that did not come into his own offensively until this season. He struggled with wooden bats while playing for USA Baseball last summer and realized he will have to make the adjustment from aluminum.
"I feel like the more at-bats I get, the better I get," Grandal said. "I had a rough summer with the USA team. In the beginning it was rough, but I got the hang of it and I started hitting towards the end."
The coming of age in Miami for Grandal resonates similarly to Alonso, the first baseman whom the Reds selected from the same school with their seventh overall pick in 2008. Alonso is also a Cuban immigrant that played his entire amateur career in South Florida.
Grandal said that he and Alonso have hit and worked out together in the past. Alonso is currently with Triple-A Louisville, playing both first base and left field.
"He was one of my favorite players when I was in high school," Grandal said. "I followed him all the way through high school and I played with him one year here in Miami. He's a great player, a great hitter and definitely a leader on the '08 team."
With the Reds selecting a catcher in the first round, it was only a matter of time before the name of Johnny Bench was uttered during the conversation. Bench, a Reds legend and Hall of Famer, is considered by many to be the greatest catcher of all time.
"I'm speechless," Grandal said of playing for the same organization as Bench. "I just want to thank the Reds for giving me the opportunity to follow the types of footsteps like Johnny Bench and the other great players that have played for the Reds."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.