Draft Hits Tigers But Not All Is Lost

Coach Tommy Slater and the Auburn baseball Tigers got some bad news on the first day of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, but that only made them work harder as the Tigers have a new signee in the wake of Tuesday's happenings.

Madison, Ala.--When signee Cory Rasmus was drafted with the 38th pick overall by the Atlanta Braves and fellow signee Caleb Clay was taken 44th by the Boston Red Sox, Auburn's pitching staff of the future took a big hit. Fortunately for the Tigers, Slater and his staff were looking ahead.

Sensing at least one of the duo would be lost, Auburn signed 6-7, 220 right-hander Chris Huseby from Stuart, Fla. this spring. A Junior National Olympic Team selection in 2005 before arm surgery in March of 2005 interrupted his progress, Huseby came back this season to pitch a few innings for Martin County.

While his inning totals and the outcome of the season wasn't as dominating as his junior year when he was 5-2 with a 1.10 ERA in 51 innings, Huseby's potential was enough for the Chicago Cubs to draft him in the 11th round. That will also be something for the Auburn coaching staff to watch in the coming days and weeks leading up to the fall semester.

That wasn't the end of things for Slater and company though as they had a back-up plan in case they lost Rasmus or Clay or both. The same thing happened to Auburn when Slater was an assistant under Hal Baird. Auburn had signed superstar Jake Peavy out of St. Paul's in Mobile, but a signing bonus was too much for the pitcher to pass up despite being taken outside the top five rounds. Slater fell back to a second selection signee that turned out to be pretty good for Auburn in Levale Speigner from Thomasville, Ga..

This time around Auburn remained in Alabama with lefty pitcher Grant Dayton from Bob Jones High in Madison. Having signed with Shoals Community College during the early signing period, Dayton jumped on an offer from the Tigers following the draft news. As a senior he was named the Huntsville Area Pitcher of the Year after going 7-3 with a 2.39 ERA. In 70 1/3 innings he struck out 115 batters while walking just 16. As a junior he also won seven games while losing just two.

"We were watching the draft and hoping," Dayton says of he and his family on Tuesday. "We had been in contact with Auburn and they pretty much told us if they (Rasmus or Clay) got drafted then they would be coming to me.

"I've always loved Auburn," he adds. "They've always been my team. Knowing that they've got the best facilities in the nation is really exciting. It's also D1 and in the SEC. You really can't beat that for baseball."

Now the lefty who says his best pitch is his change-up will make the quick move to Auburn and begin summer school on the Plains in just a few weeks. Knowing that he has a chance to jump right in and pitch because of a thin pitching staff, Dayton says that he's shooting to be in the starting rotation right off the bat next spring and he's determined to give it his best shot.

"I know I need to work to get that starting role," Dayton says. "That's my goal as a freshman, to be in the starting rotation. I'm going to work as hard as I can to get that."

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