The college again has shown the quality of its baseball program with three players chosen in the first 10 rounds of Major League Baseball’s annual draft.
The draft concluded Wednesday night.
The players chosen included:
1. SEAN BUCKLEY, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound Tampa resident, was taken in the sixth round by the Cincinnati Reds. He joined the squad as a redshirt sophomore transfer from the University of South Florida. He plays third base and the outfield. In 51 games, he batted .362, led the team in doubles (18), home runs (10) and RBIs (52). He had 11 stolen bases.
2. JON MATTHEWS, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound outfielder, was taken by the Cincinnati Reds in the eighth round. He came to SPC in January as a transfer from Charleston Southern University. Matthews, who was the first recruit to be signed by Coach Rob Francis, hit .344, and knocked in 40 runs in 50 games. He finished second on the team in stolen bases with 24.
3. BRETT LEE, a 6-foot-4, left-handed pitcher from Pensacola, was taken in the 10th round by the Minnesota Twins. He transferred to SPC from Bishop State Community College in Alabama. Lee led the team in innings pitched (80) and strikeouts (75), and his 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio impressed many local pro scouts.
With any community college athletic program, restocking the program is always the toughest job. Coach Francis, who took over the program last year after it was placed on probation for two years when Coach Dave Pano resigned, has focused on attracting players from the home fields of Pinellas County – more than half the players on next year’s roster will hail from SPC’s home county. Francis says credit for finding that good close-to-home talent goes to Ryan Beckman, the team’s recruiting coordinator.
“We firmly believe that this group of 25 freshmen will really be able to make a run at a State Championship in our first year of ‘re-eligibility’ in 2013,” Francis said. “We don’t make excuses about the (probation) situation; we are doing all we can to attract the best players we can find. Half our roster will be Pinellas County kids – when I took this job, we had one player from Pinellas County.”
Looking hard at the talent available in Pinellas County is part of SPC’s role in serving the local community, not just in athletics but in every other way as well, according to Francis.
“The biggest thing, I think, is that the community college is here to serve the community,” he said. “Some of the best baseball players are right here. Why venture beyond? I don’t really understand that. Local kids want to play on the fields where they have played all their lives, and be around their family and friends.
“I think that means a lot.”
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