Stars for a day
Courtney Hawkins, Gavin Cecchini and Clint Coulter share MLB draft experience
SECAUCUS, N.J. -- One of them had a pre-draft workout for the Los Angeles Dodgers and promptly hopped on a red-eye flight to New York. Another led his team to the state semifinals then skipped his high school graduation to attend the draft. The third arrived in the Big Apple in time to watch the first no-hitter in Mets history -- then found himself drafted by the team.
For three high school baseball players, Monday's MLB draft was a life-altering experience made all the more intense by their hectic schedules.
Clint Coulter, a catcher from Union High (Camas, Wash.), skipped his prom to try out for the Brewers and Dodgers, though he probably wouldn't have attended the dance anyway. Rated No. 20 in the ESPN 100 high school baseball player rankings, Coulter flew out Sunday night after his Dodgers workout and estimated he got maybe two hours of sleep on the plane, then another once he got to his hotel. He still worked out Monday morning.
ESPNHS Coverage of the 2012 MLB Draft
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• Benching motivated No. 8 Cecchini
• Draft Stock Watch: May 18 edition
• Baseball is a lifeline for No. 14 Eflin
• Draft Stock Watch: May 11 edition
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• Draft Stock Watch: Preseason edition
Courtney Hawkins is a two-way star for Carroll (Corpus Christi, Texas), but is projected to be an outfielder at the next level. On Thursday, the No. 5 prospect in the ESPN 100 pitched a one-hitter and Friday he went 3-for-4 as Carroll advanced to the state semifinals, to be held later this week. On Saturday, Hawkins flew to New York, getting in around 1 a.m. He skipped his graduation to attend the draft Monday, but he'll fly back in time to rejoin his team for the playoffs.
Gavin Cecchini of Barbe High (Lake Charles, La.) was Louisiana's Gatorade Player of the Year and led his team to a state championship. The 6-foot-2 shortstop, who's No. 7 in the ESPN 100, worked out for the Mets on Friday and stayed to see Johan Santana's no-hitter at Citi Field that night. Maybe the team thought he was a lucky charm.
Coulter, Hawkins and Cecchini were three of five amateur players Major League Baseball invited to attend Day 1 of the draft Monday. Perhaps more than anyone, Cecchini knew what he was in for Monday: His brother, Garin, was selected in the 2010 draft by the Boston Red Sox. But Garin wasn't quite prime-time. He probably would have been, but he tore his ACL and fell to the fourth round. And he didn't go through what Gavin did Monday.
A little after 1 p.m., the players made their way to the MLB Fan Cave at Broadway and Fourth Avenue in Manhattan. There they filmed a spoof on the Harvard University baseball team's viral video version of the song "Call Me Maybe." Their take? "Draft Me Maybe."
From there they were whisked away to a reception with GMs, former players and other baseball luminaries. Then it was time for the main event, held across the Hudson River at MLB Network's Studio 42 in Secaucus.
After commissioner Bud Selig gave his introduction, the Houston Astros made Carlos Correa of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy -- one of the other two amateur players in attendance -- the No. 1 overall pick.
For nearly an hour and a half afterward, the draft rolled on without the names Cecchini, Hawkins or Coulter being called.
CC Sabathia, who became the first active player to represent his team at the draft, could relate to what they were going through -- but only to an extent.
Sabathia said he was nervous on draft day in 1998 and anxious to know where he was going. (He was taken No. 20 overall by the Indians.) But he was in California, not on national TV. Back in 1998, there was no MLB Network.
"I think it would be hard to be here," Sabathia said. "I'm glad I didn't have to go through that and, you know, have to sit and wait. I think it's a cool thing what they're trying do with the draft now, having the kids come out. It's pretty cool."
It would get cooler. At around 8:30 p.m., the Mets took Cecchini at No. 12. Cecchini was hardly done celebrating when the White Sox took Hawkins with the very next pick. Hawkins was asked how he felt by MLB Network reporter Sam Ryan.
"I could do a backflip right now," he said.
From the crowd came cries of "Do it!"
Hawkins obliged, and it was quite a sight to behold: a 6-3, 220-pound man-child in a suit and a jersey doing a full-standing backflip.
"They called my name; I was excited, I was happy, I was emotional," he explained later. "She said, 'Can you do the backflip right here?' I said, 'No problem, let's go.'"
Hawkins was quickly told "no more backflips" by White Sox management.
As the first round dragged along, it looked increasingly likely that Coulter might not hear his name called, especially after another high school catcher, Stryker Trahan of Acadiana (Lafayette, La.), was taken with the 26th pick by Arizona. That left only five more selections in the first round.
But with the very next pick, the Brewers took Coulter. He said he had no expectations coming in, but admitted he was excited -- and relieved -- to hear his name called. Especially after seeing Cecchini and Hawkins go back-to-back.
"All the guys before me went so high and stuff, I didn't want to be left in the dust," Coulter said with a laugh.
Not long after he was drafted, Cecchini received a call from David Wright, who said he hoped the team's new draft pick would be back in New York soon enough -- as his teammate. It was the perfect topper for a life-changing day.
"It was awesome," Cecchini said. "It was really fun. My whole body went numb when I got picked. It's every kid's dream to be able to play pro ball and to be drafted in the first round."
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