Avila-Leeper on Giants' pick: Like 2 dreams

Avila-Leeper on Giants' pick: Like 2 dreams

SAN FRANCISCO -- Figuratively speaking, Cameron Avila-Leeper won both ends of a doubleheader Wednesday.

Avila-Leeper not only gained an opportunity to enter professional baseball by being selected in the 17th round of the MLB Draft, but he also was chosen by his favorite team since boyhood: the Giants, who are based about 90 minutes away from his Sacramento-area home.

"It's like two dreams come true in one day," said Avila-Leeper, 19.

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The left-hander sounded intent on seizing the opportunity to join the organization that captured his baseball imagination. Though Avila-Leeper has three years of college eligibility remaining, he indicated that signing a professional contract will be a mere formality. "I want to start now," he said.

Avila-Leeper's eagerness is justified. He thrived this season for San Joaquin Delta College, posting a 14-2 record and a 1.89 ERA in 16 starts. In 114 1/3 innings, Avila-Leeper surrendered just 64 hits while walking 40 and striking out 130.

Standing 5-foot-11 or 6 feet, depending on what source one consults, and weighing 150 pounds, Avila-Leeper remains what he has been for most of his baseball life -- one of the smallest guys on the field. He compensated as a youth by overpowering opponents. Now, he said, he's gaining appreciation for the art of pitching. Avila-Leeper strives to spot his fastball, which has touched 92 mph but sits mostly around 88-90 mph.

"I'm trying to throw the ball in and out," he said. Then, when he senses that a hitter is vulnerable, he slips a sharp-breaking curveball past him.

Anybody doubting Avila-Leeper on the basis of his size must bear in mind that Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum has enjoyed a fruitful career despite his smallish stature. Besides, Avila-Leeper said, "I've never felt intimidated or anything."

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Avila-Leeper admitted that his knowledge of his craft was somewhat incomplete last year, when the Twins drafted him in the 29th round out of Sacramento's Grant Union High School. Hence he declined to sign.

He supplemented his pitching education over the years by watching Giants telecasts and occasionally attending games at AT&T Park. Though first baseman J.T. Snow was his favorite player, Avila-Leeper watched carefully over the years as San Francisco's pitchers silenced opponents and the Giants won three World Series in five years.

"With every pitcher, I'd see if I could learn something from each of them," Avila-Leeper said.

His learning process might be about to accelerate.

Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.