A Most Unusual Player

From the beginning Travis Denker has not been your usual player. Consider first where he was drafted -- in the 21st round of the 2003 selection process out of Brea Linda High in Southern California.

The norm for a high schooler chosen back in the pack as he was, is to decline the low money usually offered and either accept a scholarship to a four-year college or if the urge to be a pro is stronger, go to a junior college, sharpen his game and consider signing as a draft-and-follow.

Denker, however, took neither route. Instead, he signed and joined the Gulf Coast Dodgers. There, he got into 38 games, hit a respectable .270 that included three home runs. It was the latter figure that intrigued Los Angeles officials the most for Denker is a second baseman and one of the growing trends in the game is to have middle infielders with some juice in their bats, not the slick-fielding light hitters of yore.

"I think we got some good prospects in those spots," said one coach after the season ended. "That Denker is one of them. He looks like he can hit some."

But the next year he went through extended spring, was assigned to Ogden then found himself sitting a lot when the Pioneer League season opened. However, he soon moved into the lineup, first as a part-timer, then on an every day basis. For Travis, you see, just got better and better -- particularly with the bat.

He wound up hitting .311 with 12 homers, tying for the team, lead in the latter department. Clearly, here was someone that they now believed in more than hoped for. Thus kid could not only play his position well, he had the muscle at the plate they were looking for.

This year, he's moved up to Columbus and this time there's no question that he'll be in there every day. And he's doing exactly what is expected on offense for he leads the team, in average (.286) and in homers (5). His 15 RBI has him tied for second place on the club, one away from the top spot.

So, here's a 5-9, 170-pound 19-year-old infielder who is getting more solid physically and who is growing in the estimation of those who employ him as well as those who play with and against him.

He's a lot better than a 21st rounder is supposed to be -- a definite prospect who simply wanted an opportunity to play. And play he has -- in a most unusual manner.

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