Padres Takes Schmidt In First Round

FAYETTEVILLE -- With the 23rd pick in the 2007 Major League Baseball first-year player draft, the San Diego Padres select...

Nicholas Schmidt from the University of Arkansas.

As soon as the name crept off the lips of Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, a dream had come true.

For Schmidt -- the junior left-handed pitcher who's spent the last three seasons as the Razorbacks' ace -- this day seemed almost impossible when he first set foot on the Fayetteville campus a few years ago.

"I was talking to my buddies about this," Schmidt said. "From coming in here my freshman year to today, you know, coming in here my freshman year and thinking I was going to be a first-round draft pick. I couldn't have imagined that happening and I'm just so fortunate for this opportunity."

After a junior season in which the 6-foot-5, 230-pound southpaw went 11-3 with a 2.69 earned run average, several draft projections listed Schmidt as a middle to high first-round pick. But after seeing several interested teams -- such as Colorado at No. 8, Arizona at No. 9 and Seattle at No. 11 -- pass, Schmidt was forced to play the waiting game a bit.

"My nerves were going crazy," Schmidt said. "I dropped to (San Diego) and it was an emotional time. It was awesome. "I mean I thought we were going at No. 9, 11 and 13, but things didn't work out that way and that's life. But it was awesome to get picked by the Padres."

In San Diego, Schmidt will have a wealth of pitching experience to look up to at the major league level, including Jake Peavy and future hall of famer Greg Maddux.

"I can't even imagine talking to Jake Peavy or a guy like Greg Maddux," Schmidt said. "Those are guys I grew up watch playing. And to even get the chance to talk to those guys about pitching, that's amazing."

A two-time all-American and former Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year during his sophomore season, Schmidt probably improved his draft stock in recent weeks. At the SEC Tournament, Schmidt tossed a two-hitter in a win against Alabama and then followed that up with a seven-inning shutout in the NCAA Regionals against Creighton.

"Nick is the perfect example of what you can do when you come to college committed to working hard and making yourself the best baseball player possible," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "Nick turned in one great start after another over his three years as a Razorback, and is now getting the recognition he deserves as a first round pick."

While Schmidt saw his hard work pay off -- becoming just the fourth Razorback ever taken in the first round -- a pair of former teammates also got the draft call Thursday as well.

Both Duke Welker and Jess Todd -- who helped Schmidt in anchoring the Diamond Hogs' pitching staff this season -- weren't too far behind their teammate, going in the second round at No. 68 and No. 82 overall, respectively.

Welker -- a junior transfer from Seminole College -- was drafted by Pittsburgh, while Todd, a first-year Razorback by way of Navarro College, went to the St. Louis Cardinals.

"I'm just so happy it's over with and I'm so glad to be a Pirate," Welker said. "They've got a good system and they do a good job with their pitchers."

Welker said he expected to go between the first and third rounds and was happy when his name was the fourth to be called in the second round.

"I was hoping to go in the supplemental round (after the first round)," Welker said. "But hey, early second round isn't bad. I was the Pirates' second pick and I'm happy."

As for Todd, his expectations were pretty much the same as Welker's. Following a season in which he was converted from closer to starter, Todd was counting on being somewhere in the first few rounds.

"I'm really thrilled," Todd said. "I'm just excited to start my career and really, I'm almost speechless right now."

By being drafted so high, the three soon-to-be former Razorbacks are in for a big payday. Schmidt's first-round position has paid out a 1.4 million dollar signing bonus each of the past two years, while Welker's No. 68 slot has averaged a $550,000 bonus over the past three years and Todd's No. 82 draft spot a $450,000 bonus.

Welker joked the sooner he signed, the better.

"I've got to get that signing bonus signed," Welker said. "That way, I can get some more money in my pocket."

Along with the three former Arkansas pitchers, the Razorbacks also saw one of their incoming signees drafted Thursday. Brett Eibner, a 6-3, 195-pound right-handed pitcher from the Woodlands, Texas, was picked in the fourth round by the Houston Astros.

Terrific Trio

Nick Schmidt, 1st round (No. 23 overall) -- San Diego Padres

Duke Welker, 2nd round (No. 68 overall) -- Pittsburgh Pirates

Jess Todd, 2nd round (No. 82 overall) -- St. Louis Cardinals

Signing Bonus, Here We Come

Schmidt, Todd and Welker are about to be a whole lot richer. The following is a list of the average signing bonuses in the past three years for their respective draft positions:

No. 23 overall -- $1.4 million

No. 68 overall -- $550,000

No. 82 overall -- $450,000

Fine Company

Nick Schmidt became just the fourth Arkansas Razorback to ever be taken in the first round of the Major League Baseball first-year player draft. Here's the list:

1981 -- Kevin McReynolds, OF, No. 6 (San Diego)

1986 -- Jeff King, 3B, No. 1 (Pittsburgh)

1999 -- David Walling, SP, No. 27 (NY Yankees)

2007 -- Nick Schmidt, SP, No. 23 (San Diego)

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