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Skipworth: 'It's a dream' to be drafted

Skipworth: 'It's a dream' to be drafted

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Kyle Skipworth paced.

He sat on the couch; he got up. He took a cell phone call; he read a text message.

People standing around, gave him a fist bump, a pat on the back, an encouraging look.

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He ate some sweet and sour chicken wings; he took a pull from his grape-flavored Gatorade.

He ambled down the back hall and even took a turn in the bathroom.

But mostly, he waited -- as they all did.

Thursday was 2008 First-Year Player Draft day, and the 18-year-old from nearby Patriot High School had long been touted as a top catching prospect, a possible first-rounder and maybe even a top-five Draft pick.

It was a day that Kyle, along with dad Spencer and his mother Kathy, had long anticipated and so had a large collection of family, friends, teammates and neighbors.

"I can believe it, but then I can't," Kathy Skipworth said.

The Skipworth household filled with people. There was basketball to be played on the outside court. There were dips to be made and food to be set out.

They all filed in and out and filled their plates until the top of the hour at 11 a.m. on the West Coast when ESPN2 went live with its coverage of Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft.

One notable absence was Kyle's older brother, Spencer Ryan, who left just days ago to rejoin his U.S. Army unit in Oklahoma City. Soon, Spencer Ryan will be deployed to Iraq for his second tour of duty there.

"He just missed it; there was a small window," Kathy Skipworth said. "But you take it small doses when you can get it."

There was a shifting of seats as those outside came inside and everyone cast their eyes and tilted an ear to the screen.

It wasn't time.

Karl Ravech and Steve Phillips and Chris Singleton and Peter Gammons talked about the draft. They talked about possible draftees. They talked about former first-rounders. But not about Kyle.

Commissioner Bud Selig took the podium at the Disney Sports Complex, welcomed those in attendance and officially put the Rays on the clock.

More waiting.

"Do teams normally take the whole time?" Kyle asked. "Do they usually wait until their time is up?"

He got his answer soon enough as ESPN took a commercial break, which produced a groan. Back on the air, and with the Rays' time expired, Selig confirmed their selection of high school shortstop Tim Beckham.

Louie Villegas, Kyle's former travel ball coach, took hold of the Tampa Bay hat he'd brought and said: "I guess we don't need this."

The wait grew as uncertainty and tension began to mount.

This was a young player that began to have doubts over the last few days. The mock drafts had him moving all around the board. People called the house and asked questions. The family began to worry how far he might fall. They canceled TV interviews.

"It's been crazy around here for the last few days," said older sister Heather, who played college softball at Miami of Ohio on full scholarship.

Kyle also had other concerns. A senior with commencement on the horizon next Wednesday, Kyle had three finals Thursday -- calculus, psychology and English -- starting at 7:15 a.m.

"I aced English," Kyle said. "I aced psychology and I totally blew the calculus exam."

The Pirates followed by taking Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez and the Royals opted for high school first baseman Eric Hosmer. Left-hander Brian Matusz went to the Orioles.

"The Giants are next and they need catching," Spencer Skipworth said. "They're going to take [Florida State catcher Gerald] Posey."

He was dead solid perfect as San Francisco took Posey and ESPN showed some video of Posey.

"He can't throw," Spencer Skipworth said.

"That's what I was thinking," responded Kyle.

Uneasiness settled over everyone in the house and then silence as Gammons began to detail the downfalls of catchers taken high in the draft.

No one said anything, they just listened. This was their guy, they were his fans and the experts on the television were saying it's smarter to take a middle infielder and convert him to a catcher.

Then the Marlins' time ran out and Selig reappeared with the magic words. He had barely uttered "Kyle" and the living room at the Skipworth house absolutely went wild. High fives, hugs. Dad even had a tear in his eye.

The moment had come.

"It's unbelievable; it's a dream," Kyle said. "But it's just the first part of the dream. The rest of it will be in a few years."

Skipworth went to a team that had shown strong interest. Last week, he worked out with the Nationals in Washington D.C. and a number of clubs had taken a look at him at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., but the Marlins wanted him.

"They came around a lot," Spencer Skipworth said.

Kyle, who hadn't registered more than a forced smile beforehand, grinned heartily as every phone in the house rang incessantly.

Raul N. Martinez, who watched the boy grow from an infant to a Major League prospect, walked up and pointed to Kyle and motioned to his parents.

"It's because of them," Martinez said. "This is a great family and he has great parents."

Villegas was equally proud.

"He was always one of the top two percent when I coached," Villegas said. "He always did the right thing and always did it the right way. It's nice to see him succeed."

His next likely stop is Jupiter, Fla., and a stint with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Marlins.

Kyle said he's ready and dad laid to rest anyone's concern about signability.

"He's going; he'll be there," Spencer said. "He'll be at the first rookie camp."

Mom was excited, but also a little more subdued as she realized her youngest was moving on.

"He's ready to start the next part of his life," Kathy Skipworth said. "But I told him, always give 100 percent and you will never have any regrets."

And so the journey begins.

Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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