Carpenter Ready for Next Step

From the time he starts playing t-ball, every little boy dreams of being a major leaguer. While that dream may fade for some players as they grow older, it remains a burning passion for a select few. One of those, Fairmont native and Mountaineer catcher David Carpenter, signed his first professional contract over the weekend.

The 12th round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals has had an eventful couple of weeks, to say the least. Heading into last week's MLB Draft, he had a hunch that he would be drafted, but had no idea when or where he would be going.

"Even if you're prepared to be drafted, you're still going to be nervous about it. You could drop a few rounds, or get picked early. It's hard to tell what's going to happen with that, so you're going to be nervous about it," said Carpenter in a telephone interview with earlier this week. "Some of the nerves still remain, but a lot of it is relieved after you get that phone call saying that you've been drafted."

Carpenter was a standout on this year's Mountaineer baseball team. The junior backstop was among the best defensive catchers in the Big East Conference prior to this season. The East Fairmont High School grad found his niche at the plate this season when he hit .316 with seven home runs and 38 RBI for Greg Van Zant's squad.

Still, it was his defense, first and foremost, that got the attention of St. Louis scouts.

"They were really impressed with the defensive part of my game," said the well-spoken Carpenter. "They felt they could work with me on my hitting, which has come along this past year. They were looking forward to getting me into the organization and working with me. They want me to move at my own pace, whether that's slow or quick."

After being selected on the first day of the two-day draft, it was pretty much a given that Carpenter would be signing with St. Louis. For Carpenter, the hardest part was telling his teammates that he wouldn't be joining them for his senior season in Morgantown.

"I thought about coming back for my senior year, but a lot of the guys were telling me to take the opportunity to pursue my dream," he said.

Making the decision to sign his first pro deal even easier was the fact that he would be signing with a winner. The Cardinals not only have a history of success at the Major League level, but also have a reputation for developing talent within their farm system.

"I was really impressed with the tradition that goes along with this organization, dating back into the 1900s," noted the former North Central Athletic Conference player of the year. "A lot of great names have come through the St. Louis organization. They shoot for perfection, but they accept that some guys have limitations. They have a goal for developing you as a ballplayer and a person in general."

After signing his contract over the weekend, Carpenter reported to Jupiter, Fla. for a mini-camp that should last about a week. After that, he'll be off to State College, Pa. to play for the State College Spikes of the short-season New York-Penn League. It will be the inaugural season for the Spikes, who will be sharing a brand new ballpark with the Penn State baseball team.

"From what everybody's been telling me, it should be a blast. The first couple of games are already sold out. My girlfriend and her mom were trying to get tickets for my first game, and it's already been sold out," Carpenter said of the excitement surrounding his new team.

It's ironic that this now-former Mountaineer will be starting his professional career in the land of a former rival. If Carpenter plays well enough though, he shouldn't be there any longer than this season.

"It's really hard to put a number as far as how well I'd like to hit, but I want to go there to do the best I can and improve through hard work," he summed up. "Hopefully I can advance to the next level by next spring training."

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