No looking back for Texas' Stubbs

No looking back for Texas' Stubbs

The Houston Astros selected high school prospect Drew Stubbs in the third round -- 89th overall -- of the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. When negotiations for a contract broke down, Stubbs fulfilled his commitment to attend the University of Texas with the hopes of increasing his stock in the 2006 draft.

Mission accomplished.

Stubbs burst onto the college baseball scene with the Longhorns in 2004 as a freshman All-American and hasn't slowed down. And after proving himself as a five-tool threat for three years on a bigger stage, the market appears favorable for Stubbs to become a first-round selection in June.

"I was kind of upset at first that things didn't work out the way I was expecting them to [in 2003], but the more I thought about it, I realized it was for the better," Stubbs said. "Now that it's all come to pass, I wouldn't trade it for anything."

Stubbs started all but three games of his Longhorns career in center field and routinely glided across the outfield to take away extra-base hits from bewildered hitters. He made the difficult look easy and the impossible seem, well, impossible -- ask Baylor's Reid Brees about Stubbs' ninth-inning sliding catch in Rosenblatt Stadium.

After helping the Longhorns to first- and second-place finishes at the College World Series over the past two years, Stubbs has them poised to make another run into the postseason, and he's doing it with his best statistical season to date. Through 53 games this year, the junior hit .337 with 48 RBIs while leading the team in home runs (11), slugging percentage (.595), runs (57), walks (35) and stolen bases (21). He's just hoping Major League teams are taking notice.

"I just wanted to show all of the pro teams what a valuable asset I can be to a ball club," said Stubbs, a two-time member of the USA national team. "If they feel I'm worthy of first-round status then so be it, but that was definitely something I was shooting for coming into this year."

Stubbs grew up a stone's throw away from the Arkansas and Louisiana borders in Atlanta, a small, east-Texas town of around 6,000 residents. The kid did it all while growing up. He starred in four sports at Atlanta High School, became the salutatorian of his graduating class and played the piano on the side.

Raw talent never was an issue, but Texas head coach Augie Garrido enhanced Stubbs' collegiate experience by offering something he didn't receive in high school -- a stronger mental approach to baseball.

Garrido -- also known as the "Zen Master" for his philosophical outlook on baseball and life -- constantly preaches small-ball to his players, reminding them to focus on only one at-bat or one inning at a time, among other things. Stubbs listened up.

"There's already an enormous amount of pressure on gifted athletes like Drew," Garrido said. "When they've been that good for that long and have so many athletic gifts from God, then their whole life they've grown up with huge expectations to perform.

"All of a sudden, he's at that level where there are others like him, and in order to become the best of the best, you need to retool yourself so you can handle adversity."

Stubbs followed Garrido's advice and changed the way he approached the game. As a result, he became a much less streaky hitter and rarely gets down on himself after one bad plate appearance -- something that helps him avoid the extended slumps that lingered during his first two seasons.

If there is still a knock on Stubbs, it could be his strikeout totals. He led the team in strikeouts each of the past three years and averages right at one strikeout per game during his career. But Garrido doesn't see strikeouts themselves as a downside. He's concerned with how Stubbs handles himself the following at bat.

"He's doing extremely well this year in allowing himself the right to fail," Garrido said. "Now he's seeing what other people call failure and using it as a learning experience.

"He's gone from being the athlete to the player."

Stubbs regrets nothing about putting the Astros on hold three years ago. He stands 20 hours away from graduating with a degree in management and probably earned himself a bigger paycheck when draft day rolls around this year. But most important, he's developed further as a ballplayer.

"When you look at him, it's hard to find something that he doesn't do well," left fielder Carson Kainer said. "That's the kind of guy that belongs in the top of the draft."

And after watching former teammates J.P. Howell, Huston Street, J. Brent Cox and Taylor Teagarden get their shot in the top rounds of the draft, Stubbs is looking forward to his.

Jake Veyhl is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.