Auburn Well Represented In Major League Draft

Auburn set a school record with seven players taken in the first 13 rounds of Tuesday's Amateur Baseball Draft.

Auburn, Ala.–-The day got off to a bang for Auburn in the 2005 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft on Tuesday and never slowed down as seven current Tigers and three signees were selected in the first 13 rounds of the draft making it one of the busiest baseball draft days in history for the Auburn program.

In recent memory the only year that comes close was in 1997 when Bryan Hebson, Patrick Dunham, Tim Hudson, Finley Woodward and Rob Macrory all went in the first 12 rounds of the draft. Coach Tommy Slater said he couldn't be happier for the guys taken on day one of the draft.

"I'm very excited for Josh Sullivan, Josh Bell, Clete Thomas, John Madden, Michael Nix and all the guys we had drafted," Slater said. "I'm excited for those guys and wish them well. They all had good seasons for us and now they get to realize their dream of becoming a major leaguer now."

Sullivan was the first of the Auburn players off the board, taken in the third round with the 147th pick overall by the Colorado Rockies. The big junior said that he's looking to sign soon and get his professional career underway.

"I would like to (go ahead and sign)," Sullivan said. "That has been my goal since freshman baseball. I am going to go home and talk about it and see where we are at. Hopefully everything will work out."

Josh Bell was selected in the fifth round out of high school.

It wasn't much longer when a pair of juniors got selected just five picks apart as Bell went 176th overall to the Toronto Bluejays while Thomas followed at 180 with the Detroit Tigers. Both said they're looking forward to signing and beginning the professional life as well. Thomas said it likely closes a chapter in his life that he enjoyed while Bell said he's ready to see where the new roads lead in pro ball.

"It has always been my dream to play in the big leagues," Thomas said. "I guess that is what every kid who plays dreams of; playing with the big guys."

"I definitely want to sign as soon as I can and see where I can go with things," Bell said. "I was hoping to go a little bit higher, but sixth round is a great opportunity so I am definitely not going to pass up on this."

Continuing the Auburn trend a few rounds later was Madden, who was taken in the eighth round with the 248th pick by the San Diego Padres. A player who came out of nowhere under the tutelage of Slater and pitching coach Matt Myers to be a dominant reliever in 2005, Madden said that he didn't know he had been chosen until he got the good news from his family in Orlando.

"After I had been driving all day, I walked in the door and my parents had the internet up and they told me," Madden said. "It was very exciting."

Things continued with two feel good stories as seniors Arnold Hughey and Karl Amonite both were selected in the 13th round. Hughey, a left-handed pitcher coming off his best collegiate season, was taken 398th overall by the Padres. Amonite followed a little later by going with the 409th pick to the New York Yankees. Coming off arm surgery last season Amonite had a very good senior year and earned his way onto the Yankees' board.

Clete Thomas is expected to sign with the Detroit Tigers.

Nix was selected in the 11th round by the Atlanta Braves. As a junior he had a 5-3 record with an SEC-leading 13 saves in 32 appearances. He struck out 58 batters in 59 innings.

"Me, Josh Sullivan and my dad were over at my house," Nix said. "We grilled out a little bit and watched and listened to the draft on the computer. It has been my dream since I was a little kid to play professional baseball, but me and my family need to talk and figure out exactly what we feel is right for me right now and we will probably make that decision pretty quickly."

In addition to the current Tigers drafted Auburn was also hit hard in the high school ranks as outfielder/pitcher Colby Rasmus from Russell County was drafted in the first round with the 28th overall selection by the St. Louis Cardinals. Joining him early was pitcher Will Inman from Tunstall High in Danville, Va., a third round selection at number 85 to the Milwaukee Brewers. Slater said that both selections likely mean signings in the near future.

"He's a first round pick and I anticipate that he will sign," Slater said of Rasmus. "I anticipate that Will Inman will sign also based on where he was drafted. For them to be drafted where they were those clubs would had to have talked to them about ‘would you do it for this?' I'm sure there was an agreement of some sort. You're not going to waste those picks on guys that would hold out the entire summer. I anticipate both of those guys will sign and sign quickly."

Also selected was infielder/pitcher Brandon Monk from LaGrange (Ga.) High. The powerful player could play either shortstop or third base and was taken by the Atlanta Braves with the 227th overall pick in the seventh round. Because it is the local Braves that selected him the chances of Monk signing are pretty good meaning Auburn will have to replace three players in the signing class before next season. Slater said that's something he's prepared for every season and Auburn will begin bringing in visitors next week to campus.

"You have to have guys waiting in the wings to potentially fill in for guys you may lose," Slater said. "That's why recruiting never stops in this sport especially. We have a very small window of time when we're not on the road recruiting. You have to constantly evaluate, not only next year's players, but this year's players for that very fact. A great example of that would be in 1998 when we lost Jake Peavy (San Diego Padres starter) while we were in Tallahassee for a Super Regional. The first thing Coach (Hal) Baird said was ‘Tommy, who's next?' I said ‘we've got this little pitcher up in Thomasville named Levale Speigner' and Levale came in here and had a great career."

The good news so far for Slater and company is that all-everything Justin Bristow from Mills Godwin High in Richmond, Va. remained undrafted through 18 rounds on Monday. Projected as a possible first round selection, Bristow told everyone who would listen that he intended to go to Auburn if he wasn't in the first round. Apparently they listened as he's fallen deep into the draft, increasing the chances that he's wearing orange and blue next season. A player that would follow in the mold of Hudson while he was at Auburn, the 6-5, 225 shortstop can also throw from the mound and would be a big asset for a young team in 2006.

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