BRADENTON -- As he readied himself for his first taste of professional baseball, Cole Tucker figured he had a handle on what to expect.
The talent level would be greater than anything he had seen before, and the everyday grind would be tough.
Tucker also knew how funny it would feel every time he took an at-bat as a Gulf Coast League Pirate while his buddies back home in Arizona would be getting ready for college.
There is one thing, however, Tucker may have underestimated.
"I didn't expect it to be this hot, honestly," he said Tuesday after the Pirates' 6-5 loss to the GCL Astros at Pirate City. "Being from Arizona, I figured I'd seen it all when it came to climate. But it's a different kind of heat here. It's humid."
The broiling heat notwithstanding, Tucker said he has no regrets of his decision to forgo the University of Arizona and sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates for $1.8 million.
The Pirates took Tucker, who turned 18 on July 3, with the 24th overall pick.
"I was basically signing if I was going the first one or two rounds," he said. "It's just really different now; everyone back home is getting ready to go to college, and I'm out here working every day, which is cool, it's what I want to be doing. It's just not the traditional thing.
"But I couldn't be happier. I love it here, playing day in, day out. It's really cool."
Tucker doubled and drew a pair of walks Tuesday and is hitting .265 with a .429 on-base percentage, ninth in the Gulf Coast League.
"(Scouts) knew he was growing, he was getting better, he was developing, he had now skills defensively," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told reporters the day Tucker signed. "They saw a 17-year-old that is ahead of where most in his class are. They felt if he were being drafted next year, it'd be in the top five or 10 picks in the country."
Tucker has experienced some growing pains, too. Though he entered Tuesday with a solid range factor of 5.6 (dividing putouts and assists by the number of innings played at a position), Tucker has made seven errors in 12 games at shortstop.
Similar to most first-round picks, Tucker is accustomed to success. He hit .404 with 30 RBIs during his senior season at Mountain Pointe High, and he helped Team
USA's U18 national team win the 2013 World Cup.
Yet Tucker acknowledged growing pains are a part of the process.
"It's very different here. You've got to bring your A game every day," he said. "In high school, you're the dude and everyone looks to you to get a hit every time, make every play. Here, that's not the case. You make errors, you make outs, you strike out, you look stupid. But it all evens out eventually, and everyone is in the same boat here. The level of competition is what I expected."
So has his experience as a pro, even if it is a little warmer than the thought.
"When guys say the minor leagues are a grind, they really mean it," Tucker said. "But it's fun. It makes it fun; it makes it a challenge. It's very cool."