Monday, June 14, 2010

SPORTS >> Major league player

Former Cabot Panther Sam Bates drafted to Florida Marlins

Story by Todd Traub
Leader sports editor

Sam Bates had already earned the honor of being Cabot’s first baseball player to sign with the Razorbacks.

Now he is Cabot’s first Major League draft pick.

The Florida Marlins took Bates, a slugging first baseman at Crowder Community College, in the 39th round of the amateur draft Tuesday. Bates signed with Arkansas in the spring and now has the option of playing professional baseball instead.

“For us around here it’s kind of a rarity,” said Andy Runyan, who assists Cabot High School head coach Jay Fitch and coaches in the city’s American Legion program.

“Baseball tradition is not what Cabot is known for and Jay and I are just grinning from ear to ear,” Runyan said.

It has been a hectic time for Bates, who is coming off a trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series with Crowder, located in Neosho, Mo. Bates did not immediately return a message left on his cell phone Friday because he was on his way to El Dorado, Kan., which plays in the collegiate summer wood-bat league and won the National Baseball Congress national championship last year.

The Crowder Roughriders went 1-2 in the NJCAA World Series, losing twice to eventual champion Iowa Western Community College and beating Alabama’s Faulkner State Community College 19-18.

Runyan said Bates may have helped his draft status with a wood-bat home run during the series.

“He wore it out this year, he hit over .400 his second year in a row,” Runyan said.
Bates hit .432 in the regular season and led the Roughriders in hits (82), doubles (20) and was second in home runs (13) and RBI (60).

Bates, a 6-4, left-handed power hitter, played third base and shortstop for Cabot then moved to first and the corner outfield spots at Crowder.

“He probably got into a defensive position that was more suited for him in college,” said Runyan, who coached Bates in American Legion.

Bates was a three-time all-conference selection for Cabot High School and had already provided his former coaches with a thrill when he became the first of Fitch’s former players to sign with the Hogs.

“He’s going to end up with better money and a better position,” Runyan said.
Now Bates has to decide if he wants to play for Arkansas, his long-time dream, for at least a season and possibly improve his status in next year’s draft or take the plunge into professional baseball with the Marlins now.

If Bates signs with the Marlins he would likely be sent to a short-season minor league team and begin his pro career later this month.

Otherwise Bates will report to Arkansas in the fall.

A good year with a high-profile program like Arkansas, which is competing in the NCAA Super Regional in Tempe, Ariz., this weekend, could get Bates drafted in an earlier round next June.

The Razorbacks had seven players selected this year, plus a handful of signees like Bates.

“I’m not sure what he’s thinking right now,” Runyan said. “He’s an outstanding student. He’s communicated to us he’s dreamed about being a Razorback since he was a kid.”