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Innovative 2009 Draft packs a punch

Innovative 2009 Draft packs a punch

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It will be awhile before we can look back on the 2009 First-Year Player Draft and truly assess its overall impact.

It will be a few weeks before most of the players selected sign and head off to the four corners of the country to begin their professional careers in outposts from Tempe, Ariz., to Burlington, Vt., from Vancouver, Canada, to Jupiter, Fla.

Likely, it will be months before some of the top picks sign on the dotted line, moments before the deadline of 12:01 a.m. ET on August 18.

And it will be years before we know which of this crop of 1,521 players taken over the three-day event become Rookies of the Year, perennial All-Stars, potentially even Hall of Famers.

But one thing we can say right now: This year's Draft, innovative in so many ways, certainly packed an immediate punch of its own.

The event enjoyed its prime-time television debut, with the first round broadcast live Tuesday evening from MLB Network's Studio 42, and expanded to a three-day affair for the first time, as it continued to step into the media limelight after having been for many years a behind-closed-doors event.

The excitement that built in the weeks leading into the Draft about presumptive first overall pick Stephen Strasburg, the San Diego State star, came to a peak on Tuesday, when Commissioner Bud Selig announced that, indeed, the Washington Nationals had taken the 21-year-old wunderkind with that pick.

"It was an amazing feeling," Strasburg said later. "I had so many different emotions. I was so happy, but at the same time, I was kind of sad that the three years that I've had [in college] that were absolutely amazing have come to an end. It just goes to show the last three years how hard I worked to where I am today. I'm so thankful to the coaches and players that helped me along the way."

The first night was certainly not lacking in star power. Commissioner Selig read off the names of the 32 first-round picks, followed by a host of baseball luminaries, including Hall of Famers Al Kaline, Billy Williams and the irrepressible Tommy Lasorda.

One of Tuesday's highlights was the warm welcome afforded to Los Angeles Angels outfield prospect Mike Trout. Taken with the 25th overall pick in the first round, Trout was on hand at Studio 42 with a host of family and friends.

When his name was called, the room erupted in cheers as he strode to the podium to receive his first Angels cap and jersey from Commissioner Selig.

"Everyone was coming up to me at school today, wishing me good luck, asking for autographs," said Trout said. "It's a great opportunity. It's a dream come true. It was nerve-wracking, crazy. There was pressure. My stomach dropped a couple of times. "

The first round was a perfect split: 16 pitchers and 16 position players; 16 polished college products and 16 promising high school prospects. By the time the Angels took Alibay Barkley -- a 6-foot-4, 250-pound first baseman from the same New York high school as Manny Ramirez -- with the final pick, a total of 1,521 players had been drafted. And again nearly an even split: 765 pitchers, 756 hitters.

Strasburg will undoubtedly be closely watched on his journey. Armed with a fastball consistently clocked in the triple digits and a devastating curveball, he's coming off of a junior season with the Aztecs in which he went 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA, including a no-hitter with 17 strikeouts in May.

Second overall pick Dustin Ackley, taken by Seattle, was regarded as the top college bat in the Draft, but he won't be able to start negotiating with the Mariners until his North Carolina Tar Heels finish their quest for the College World Series title. A .400 hitter in college and the reigning ACC Player of the Year, Ackley is a first baseman now but is expected to move to the outfield as a pro.

Rounding out 2009's top five picks were: Five-tool outfielder Donavan Tate, the first high school player taken, who went third overall to San Diego; polished Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez, the No. 4 pick by Pittsburgh; and right-hander Matt Hobgood from Norco (Calif.) High School, the first high school pitcher off the board at No. 5 by Baltimore.

In addition to many names that are sure to become well-known, there were those that already ring familiar.

There were baseball legacies such as the sons of former All-Stars Tony Fernandez, Ruben Sierra, Matt Williams, Harold Baines and Tim Wallach; the grandson of Hall of Famer and Red Sox great Carl Yastrzemski; the brothers of Red Sox pitcher Daniel Bard, Oakland shortstop Bobby Crosby, Oakland pitcher Josh Outman, Detroit rookie pitcher Rick Porcello and Colorado outfielder Matt Murton; nephews of Mets star Carlos Beltran, former All-Star B.J. Surhoff and former Oakland star Sal Bando; and the sons of such front office executives as Los Angeles Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt, Colorado Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd and Cincinnati Reds GM Walt Jocketty.

And there were more family ties, including the selection of California-based catchers Bob Stock, taken out of USC by St. Louis with a second-round pick, and his younger brother Richard, who was taken in the 45th round by the Phillies out of high school. Brothers Nick and Ryan Lockwood were also selected -- Nick, a South Florida recruit at shortstop, in the ninth round by Minnesota, and his older brother Ryan, an outfielder at USF, in the 39th round by Oakland.

Others selected along the way have already secured -- or could secure -- a place in history.

Left-hander Patrick Schuster, for example. Taken in the 13th round by Arizona, the high school hurler from New Port Richey, Fla., set a state record this past April when he threw four consecutive no-hitters.

Clemson left-hander Christopher Dwyer, a 21-year-old taken in the fourth round by Kansas City, became the first Draft-eligible freshman from a four-year college.

If he makes it to the Majors, outfielder Seth Schwindenhammer, an Illinois high school outfielder taken by Boston in the fifth round, would break Jarrod Saltalamacchia's record for having the longest last name in big league history. Unless hyphenated last names qualify, in which case look out for Atlanta's 16th-round pick, Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg, a first baseman out of Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

Others have names familiar to sports fans for reasons outside of baseball.

For example, catcher Asaad Ali, taken by the Angels in the 40th round, is the son of boxing legend Muhammad Ali. Another former boxing champion and Olympian, Virgil Hill, saw his son opt for baseball. Outfielder Virgil Hill Jr. was taken by St. Louis in the sixth round out of Los Angeles Mission Community College.

California high school outfielder Trayce Thompson was taken in the second round by the White Sox. He's the son of NBA great Mychal Thompson, a former No. 1 overall Draft pick who enjoyed a long career and is now one of the broadcasters for the Los Angeles Lakers.

And Shaver Hansen, a third baseman from Baylor taken in the sixth round by Seattle, is the son of former pro wrestler Stan "The Lariat" Hansen, who competed against the likes of Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant.

Players can now start negotiating and signing with their teams until 12:01 a.m. on August 18. The Nationals' second first-round pick, Stanford closer Drew Storen, has gotten the ball rolling -- he's already signed and headed for Class A Hagerstown.

Lisa Winston 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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{"content":["first-year_player_draft" ] }
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