JSU’s Watts, Eberle picked on final day
by Al Muskewitz
amuskewitz@annistonstar.com
Jun 07, 2012 | 3876 views |  0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JACKSONVILLE — Ben Waldrip expects to sign his first pro contract “in the next few days” and then he’ll be off to start launching the long ball in the thin air that is Colorado.

The former Jacksonville State first baseman was taken in the 10th round by the Colorado Rockies during Tuesday’s first full day of the Major League Draft and spent the rest of the day celebrating and making plans for the next phase in his career.

He hasn’t signed yet, but that shouldn’t be a problem, and when he does, he’ll be reporting to the Rockies’ newly placed Pioneer League (Rookie) affiliate in Grand Junction, Colo.

“It should be pretty easy, being a senior and everything,” Waldrip said Wednesday as he prepared to leave town. “I know guys will be reporting Sunday and Monday. I’ll be in Grand Junction on Monday. I’m ready to go off and start playing every day and take advantage of playing for a team like the Rockies.”

JSU teammates Sam Eberle and Daniel Watts will be getting the same treatment, having been taken during Wednesday’s final day of the draft.

Eberle went to the San Francisco Giants — as a catcher — in the 25th round (778 overall) and left-handed pitcher Watts went to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 32nd round (993 overall).

“I think it’s just awesome to be drafted by the Giants,” Eberle said through the school. “The Giants’ scout was the guy who contacted me the most, so I had a feeling they might draft me.”

Attempts by The Star to reach Eberle Wednesday were unsuccessful.

The Chattanooga product was a versatile element for the Gamecocks, mostly playing third base and catcher, but he did open the season in center field. He led the Gamecocks with a .359 average and led the Ohio Valley Conference with a .434 average in league-only games.

He finished his career as JSU’s all-time doubles leader (62 — three shy of the OVC record), second on the all-time hits list (273) and third in RBIs (188).

Watts was 6-6 with a 4.35 ERA this season, struggling early in the season, but he pitched the two best games of his career in his final two starts. He threw seven innings of shutout ball in his last regular-season start against Eastern Illinois and six innings of one-hit ball with 11 strikeouts in his OVC Tournament start against Morehead State.

Three weeks ago, when he explained his decision to not return for his senior year of baseball eligibility, Watts talked about getting on with things he couldn’t get done in Jacksonville. Now, he has another option.

Projected pro prospects on the JSU roster left undrafted were outfielder Kyle Bluestein and record-setting All-America closer Todd Hornsby.

Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.

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