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UF's LaPorta taken seventh by Brewers
Milwaukee pulled off the first big surprise of the draft, taking Florida 1B Matt LaPorta with the seventh overall pick.
By JOHN C. COTEY
Published June 8, 2007
The Milwaukee Brewers pulled off the first big surprise of the draft Thursday, taking Florida 1B Matt LaPorta with the seventh overall pick.
With Prince Fielder and his 21 home runs leading the Brewers to their best start in years, why would Milwaukee take a player scouts say is limited to first base or designated hitter?
The Brewers see him as neither, apparently.
"We had an opportunity this past week to work him out personally in leftfield. ... We had him in leftfield, and he worked with our outfield instructors, and this is something we talked about during the course of the spring, " Brewers director of amateur scouting Jack Zduriencik told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
LaPorta was a catcher coming out of high school but played some third base and leftfield before settling in at first.
A finalist for the Golden Spikes award given to the country's best amateur player, LaPorta batted .402 for the Gators this season, with 20 home runs and 52 RBIs.
"We felt that this, in our estimation, was one of the best hitters in the country and one of the best power hitters in the country, " Zduriencik said.
LaPorta was the highest selection among the state's major college players.
BASCOM READY TO CHANGE LUCK: Tim Bascom's hard-luck year took a turn in his favor when he was selected in the fourth round by the Baltimore Orioles.
"I had a pretty good idea I was going to Baltimore, " Bascom said. "It's a relief to get this process out of the way."
The former Dunedin star has been through the draft process. Last year, he was selected in the sixth round by the San Diego Padres after a strong showing at Central Florida.
He was intent on signing a contract and starting a professional career. But doctors noticed during a physical that he had a torn ACL.
After that, Bascom said, the Padres offered significantly less money than he expected. He turned down the offer and returned to college and has another semester before finishing his degree in sports management and fitness.
And he worked himself back into shape. Now, Bascom is turning his attention to signing - and playing.
"I want to hammer out a contract as soon as possible, " Bascom said. "I can't wait to get back out on the field."
BREAKOUT SEASON: Florida State junior 2B Tony Thomas, a former Bloomingdale High star, saw his solid defense and breakout offensive season catapult him into the third round 97th overall to the Chicago Cubs.
"I'm just speechless, " said Thomas, the ACC player of the year who led the Seminoles in almost every category, including average (.430), hits (111), runs (91), doubles (33), homers (11) and stolen bases (31).
"Everything I've worked for has come true, " he said. "It's everything I've wanted since I was a little kid, to have the opportunity to play professional baseball."
Although he insisted before the draft that he hadn't thought about a round or dollar amount that would entice him to forgo his senior season, he said he's excited about the Cubs and is "confident" he will be signing.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Michael Burgess, taken 49th overall, almost had his baseball career end at an early age, according to Sylvester Burgess, his paternal grandfather.
The Hillsborough prep All-American was ejected from a Sulphur Springs Little League game as an 11-year-old for tossing a bat against a dugout wall after striking out.
"I threatened him that he wasn't going to play anymore if he did that again, " Sylvester said while watching the draft from the home of Michael's mom and stepfather. "That was the end of that."
Burgess recovered from that and became the first Tampa Bay area player selected Thursday.
DRAWING PLAYERS: A player from the Savannah College of Arts and Design was drafted before any players from the University of Miami.
Ryan Pope, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-handed pitcher, was taken by the Yankees with the final pick in the third round (129th overall).
SCAD has actively recruited baseball players from Florida for years. Pope, who played at Bradenton Bayshore, is one of six players from the state on the Bees' roster.
Two former Pinellas County players are on the SCAD roster - Sean Barber of Lakewood and outfielder Casey Allen of Gibbs.
ODDS AND ENDS: Two FSU signees, RHP Michael Main and LHP John Gast, were selected. Both were taken by the Rangers (Maine in the first round and Gast in the fifth). ... The area's high school selections were dominated by pitchers. Middleton's Nevin Griffith and Alonso's Tommy Toledo were taken in the first five rounds.
John C. Cotey can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6261. Times staff writers Joey Knight, Brian Landman and Bob Putnam contributed to this report.