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Today was an important day in the life of Juneaus Chad Bentz, but he didnt stick around home to hear the good news.
Bentz was chosen late this morning by the Montreal Expos in the seventh round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft for Major League Baseball, making Bentz the 203rd pick overall.
A left-handed sophomore pitcher at Long Beach State, was considered one of the drafts top prospects. But Bentz said he didnt plan to be sitting around, waiting for the call telling him when he was picked and which team chose him. The draft has 50 rounds and wont end until Thursday.
Instead of waiting, Bentz had other plans.
Im going fishing, Bentz said Monday night.
Bentz had been through this before. In 1999 he was one of four Alaskans picked in the draft following his senior year at Juneau-Douglas High School. Bentz was picked in the 34th round by the New York Yankees, but chose to attend Long Beach State instead of signing a pro contract.
Once it got to the second day, I realized I wasnt going anywhere high, Bentz said of the 1999 draft. But that first day, I was waiting and waiting.
Bentz didnt have to wait so long for the call this year.
Before this season, Bentz was listed as the 49th college prospect by Baseball America. Bentzs projected position has slipped a bit since he struggled early in the college season, posting a 2-3 record with one save and a 7.42 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 60 2/3 innings. Still, Baseball America recently listed him the 32nd overall prospect from Southern California.
They (several major league teams) all called me today and told me it would probably be around 10-11 a.m. (Alaska time) when I was picked, Bentz said. You might hear about it before I do. They just told me good luck. I feel a lot more comfortable about this draft.
Late last week Bentz said most of clubs whod contacted him were telling him he might go anywhere between the second and the fifth rounds. The highest any Alaskan has ever gone in the draft was late in the fourth round last year, when the Atlanta Braves picked former Dimond High pitcher Brian Montalbo with the 130th pick overall. Montalbo didnt sign and just completed his freshman year at the University of California-Berkeley.
Baseball America draft guru Allan Simpson, who compiles all the prospect rankings for the magazine, said Bentz might go a little bit later than the top five rounds.
Hes only a sophomore, so hes got double leverage, said Simpson, meaning Bentz can return to school if he doesnt like where hes picked. I would be surprised if he went in the first 10 rounds, though he might slip in somewhere between the eighth and 10th round. Some of the teams were a little worried about his performance this year.
Im looking forward to the draft, and Im looking forward to it being over, said Bentz. I just want to know whats going on.
Regardless of where hes picked, Bentz plans to pitch for the Orleans (Mass.) Cardinals in the Cape Cod League this summer while he negotiates with the team that chooses him. The Cape Cod League is one of the top amateur leagues in the country and Bentz said it will be a nice change of pace. The last two summers Bentz pitched for the Anchorage Glacier Pilots of the Alaska League, another of the nations top amateur programs.
Bentz recently was featured on Major League Baseballs pre-draft coverage on its Web site, http://www.mlb.com. There was a feature story, called The Next Jim Abbott? Plus there was a radio interview on the Web site, and another interview with Jim Abbott where Bentzs prospects were discussed. Bentz has been compared to Abbott because both players were born with deformed right hands and learned to overcome the handicap.
Chads a great kid. Hes enthusiastic and hes having some success at Long Beach State, which is a great program, Abbott said in the interview. Hes a young pitcher whos working on some of the things we were discussing (mastering both sides of the plate). Hes got a good fastball and hes learning how to locate it. Hes a big strong kid and hes adapted to the Southern California lifestyle. Hes got all the makings of a pro pitcher and I hope he gets that chance.
Bentz met Abbott last year when Long Beach State coach Dave Snow set up a meeting. Abbott led Team USA to the gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, plus he threw a no-hitter for the New York Yankees against the Cleveland Indians.
I like Jim Abbott and I like what he represented, Bentz said when asked if hes ever wished the comparisons were to other top lefties like Randy Johnson or David Wells. I like him.
Bentz isnt the only Alaskan who was listed among the top prospects on Baseball Americas regional listings.
Lewis-Clark State University senior right-handed pitcher Chris Mabeus of Soldotna was ranked third in the Northern Rockies region and Ketchikan High School senior right-handed pitcher-outfielder Kenny Terpsma was ranked third in the Pacific Rim region. Mabeus, who then attended Eastern Arizona Junior College, was picked in the 39th round of the 1999 draft by the Montreal Expos. This is Terpsmas first time through the draft process.
Terpsma threw a no-hitter against Juneau when he was a sophomore, but he hasnt been academically eligible for Ketchikans baseball team his last two years. Terpsma plans to attend Sacramento City College next year. Terpsma did well at showcase camps in Las Vegas and in Yakima, Wash.
Two former Juneau-Douglas High School players - Iowa State senior third baseman Rob Conway and Grinnell College senior right-handed pitcher-first baseman-third baseman Joel Cladouhos - dont appear on the prospect lists, but both are eligible for the draft. Conway led the Cyclones in nearly every offensive category this season, while Cladouhos was voted his teams MVP. Conway is in southern California preparing for a major league tryout camp if he doesnt get picked in the draft.
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.