Simmons excited about opportunity

Outfielder Cole White and catcher Chris Simmons enjoyed great careers together at West Point. But there time together isn't over. As a matter of fact, White and Simmons will be putting on the black and gold together again, even if its a different shade. Both Black Knights were selected in the Major League Baseball first-year player draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday.

Pittsburgh selected Simmons, who hit .318 with eight homers and 42 RBI this season, in the 41st round (1,224th pick). The Pirates took White, Army's all-time leader in home runs (28), doubles (44), total bases (380) and slugging percentage (.588), in the 42nd round (1,254th pick).

The Florida Marlins grabbed left-handed pitcher Drew Clothier in the 37th round (1,108th pick). Clothier, who is 6-foot-23, 205 pounds, went 5-5 with a 4.38 ERA in 12 starts for the Black Knights this year.

White, the 2007 Patriot League Player of the Year, and Simmons are expected to play together this summer for the Single-A State College (Pa.) Spikes of the short-season New York-Penn League. The Spikes open up their season June 17 with a two-game series at the Jamestown (N.Y.) Jammers.

So it could be an Army reunion. Jamestown is Florida's NY-PL affiliate and Clothier could start the year there. State College and Jamestown also meet on June 19, July 19-21, Aug 21-22 and Aug 26-27. State College and Jamestown both play in the Pinckney Division.

"I watched the draft tracker on the Internet and when my name popped up it was just a great feeling," Simmons said. "It's almost kind of surreal. I've never played in a pro-like kind of atmosphere. It's going to be exciting." "I'm very excited to represent the Academy," added White, who hit .373 this season with eight homers and 30 RBI. "If it wasn't for West Point, I would never have gotten the chance to play pro baseball. I've had such great coaches and a great support staff at the Academy and that's why I'm in this position."

White, Simmons and Clothier are just the fifth, sixth and seventh Army players to be selected in the draft, respectively. Mike Scioletti was taken in the 43rd round in 1998 by the Chicago White Sox, but never signed a contract, opting to pursue a military career. The Detroit Tigers took Schuyler Williamson in the 26th round of the 2005 draft. Williamson played one year in the organization, before leaving to join the U.S. Army, and has served in Iraq.

Last year, Seattle took Nick Hill in the seventh round and the Los Angeles Angels selected Milan Dinga in the 10th. Hill, who had a great rookie season last year, is 1-6 with a 4.27 ERA in 14 games, including nine starts, for the High Desert Mavericks of the full-season Single-A California League. Dinga, experiencing shoulder problems, is on the disabled list.

White had hoped to go in the top 15 rounds. Scouts predicted he could go between the 15th and 40 rounds. But he, Simmons and Clothier are probably happy with the way things worked out at the end of the day.


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