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Give 'em 5: Draft kind to Cats

Rays make Rickard the fifth UA player of day taken in 1st 10 rounds
2012-06-06T00:00:00Z 2014-10-10T11:25:28Z Give 'em 5: Draft kind to CatsRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 06, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Joey Rickard was shagging flies along the Hi Corbett Field warning track at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday when he was summoned back to the UA clubhouse.

In hushed tones, Rickard and teammate Stephen Manthei talked about an adviser and the Rays, or maybe an adviser named Ray. Then, Rickard disappeared.

Ten minutes later, the Arizona Wildcats' star center fielder returned to the field, grinning.

The Tampa Bay Rays had selected Rickard with their ninth-round (302nd overall) selection in Tuesday's Major League Baseball amateur draft.

Rickard said the young, high-energy franchise is a perfect fit with his style of play. The Wildcats' leadoff man and starting center fielder is a slashing spark plug who plays the game with an edge. For that, there may be no more accepting place than Tampa Bay.

"I know it's the type of baseball I like - fast," he said. "I'm pretty excited."

Rickard's selection capped a banner day for the Wildcats, who are preparing for a best-of-three super regional series against St. John's that starts Friday.

For the first time since 2008 and third time ever, the UA had five players - all juniors - taken in the draft's first 10 rounds:

• The St. Louis Cardinals drafted UA shortstop Alex Mejia, the reigning Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year, with their fourth-round (150th overall) pick on Tuesday. In the sixth round, St. Louis also selected Wildcats ace Kurt Heyer.

• The New York Yankees took Robert Refsnyder in the fifth round, with hopes of moving him from the outfield to second base.

• The Cincinnati Reds, spurred on by scout Clark Crist's recommendation, took third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean with their eighth-round selection.

• About 15 minutes later, the Rays called Rickard's name.

Because of their ages and the rounds in which they were picked, all five Wildcats are expected to sign pro contracts once the college season is over. They'll then scatter to different short-season and rookie-league teams throughout the country.

Except, maybe, for Heyer and Mejia. Heyer said he's hoping to room with his once-and-future teammate now that they're going to be Cardinals together.

"We'll see if we can put that in the deal," he said.

Considered one of the nation's top right-handers, Heyer said his sixth-round pick was "a fair selection" but admitted he thought he'd be taken earlier. The Cardinals, like many of the major-league clubs that scouted him, project Heyer as a possible long reliever. He's 12-2 with a 2.03 ERA as a starter this year.

"They definitely have a history of developing pitchers," Heyer said. "My adviser says it's a great program to be picked up by, especially when there's a possibility you could be moved to the bullpen."

Mejia, who doesn't employ an adviser, said he was just happy to be picked. A .367 hitter and a solid defender, the shortstop was pegged as one of the UA's most pro-ready players.

"Anywhere I went," he said, "I would have been happy."

Refsnyder said his selection was "kind of a whirlwind," though pro scouts had long ago pegged him as a second baseman.

The Reds took Mejias-Brean, despite talking with him just once before the draft. Cincinnati had an edge, though: Crist, a shortstop on UA's 1980 NCAA title team, coached Mejias-Brean in the Area Code Baseball Games years earlier and was aware of the Cienega High School product's ceiling.

Coach Andy Lopez said he was happy to see his players picked Tuesday, even if it means they likely won't stick around for their senior seasons.

This year's junior class is special, he said, and one of the reasons why the Wildcats are two wins away from the College World Series.

All five drafted players, Lopez said, have a chance to make the big leagues. The draft concludes today with rounds 16-40.

"Like all things in athletics, you can't measure heart," the coach said. "If you're going to go off heart, I'll give them all a chance.

"It's been a special team."

On StarNet: See more photos from the UA's regional games at azstarnet.com/gallery

Tuesday's draft picks

Arizona Wildcats

Player Team Round (overall pick)

SS Alex Mejia St. Louis Cardinals 4th (150th)

INF/OF Robert Refsnyder New York Yankees 5th (187th)

P Kurt Heyer St. Louis Cardinals 6th (210th)

3B Seth Mejias-Brean Cincinnati Reds 8th (262nd)

OF Joey Rickard Tampa Bay Rays 9th (302nd)

UA commits

Player Team Round (overall pick)

OF Dylan Cozens* Philadelphia Phillies 2nd (77th)

2B Jackson Willeford Kansas City Royals 12th (373rd)

*Cozens signed to play football but told the East Valley Tribune on Tuesday that he'll sign with the Phillies.

Tucson products

Player Team Round (overall pick)

P Julio Felix** Detroit Tigers 12th (394th)

**Felix played at Sunnyside High School and Pima College

super regional

Arizona vs. St. John's, best-of-three series at Hi Corbett Field:

• Friday: Noon (ESPN2)

• Saturday: Noon (ESPN2)

• Sunday: 1 p.m. (ESPN2), if necessary

• Radio: 1290-AM

• Tickets: UA season-ticket holders have until today at 3 p.m. to pre-order reserved all-session tickets ($18 and $25). All-session passes will go on sale to the general public today at 6 p.m. Single-game tickets will go on sale later in the week.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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