"I'm really excited and definitely relieved to get it done," Stephenson said by phone. "It was literally at the last minute by the phone waiting for a call."
There were 23 unsigned first-round picks heading into Monday, and for much of the day, it appeared that Stephenson would go unsigned. As of late Monday afternoon, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty conceded that talks were stalled and he did not know if a deal would get done or not. By late Monday night, Buckley became cautiously optimistic.
But when the zero hour came, a contract was signed.
"You never want to pick a guy in the first round to not sign him," Buckley said. "We're thrilled. Robert is a talented guy. We think he can be an outstanding pitcher. No matter where you are as an organization, you always want to add good pitching."
A team that does not sign its first- or second-round pick will receive a compensatory pick in the 2012 Draft. That selection will come at the same slot, plus one spot. In the Reds' case, that meant they would have received the 28th overall pick as compensation. Now it's a moot point.
Stephenson had a contingency plan, since he was slated to play for the University of Washington. But he is not headed to Seattle after all.
"I had my roommate and everything set to go. I already had my classes, too," said Stephenson, who had a 4.2 grade point average in high school.
Instead, Stephenson is likely headed to rookie ball at the club's player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz.
The last Reds first-round selection to not sign was left-handed pitcher Jeremy Sowers in 2001.
In a move to avoid a rush near the deadline, Stephenson was in Cincinnati last week to take his physical, which he passed. As part of his trip, he took in a Reds game at Great American Ball Park and met members of the club.
"I really liked the ballpark," he said. "I thought it was a beautiful place."
Also signed by the Reds was their 22nd-round Draft pick, left-handed pitcher Amir Garrett -- giving him a $1 million bonus.
The signing originally seemed somewhat of a long shot since Garrett was already headed to St. John's University on a basketball scholarship as a highly coveted hoops prospect. His contract allows him to play both sports.
"We're pretty excited because he's an All-American basketball player who is going to a great school at St. John's," Buckley said. "He's a talented athlete, but he hasn't put the time into baseball like Robert has. But we think he can also be an outstanding pitcher."
Stephenson and Garrett were the only two Draft picks signed on Monday. Overall, the club signed 29 of its 50 selections.
"It's been a long process since June 7," Buckley said. "We're glad we got both of those guys at the end."