Friday, June 08, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> KC selects Bates in round 28

Leader sportswriter

Two years later and 11 rounds earlier, Cabot native Sam Bates has once again been selected in the Major League Baseball draft, this time to the Kansas City Royals organization in the 28th round – 853rd overall.

Bates was also drafted in 2010 by the Florida Marlins, but did not sign as he had just matriculated to the University of Arkansas after two years of college baseball in Neosho, Mo. as a Crowder Junior College Rough Rider. He went in the 39th round then, but his stock has increased significantly with a stellar two years at Arkansas, including a .247 career batting average for the Razorbacks.

Bates, a left-handed batter who throws with his right hand, is listed as 6-5, 230 pounds in the Razorbacks’ media guide. He was a baseball and basketball standout at Cabot High School under coaches Jay Fitch and Jerry Bridges.

Bates did not immediately return a call to his cell phone Friday morning as he and the Diamond Hogs were preparing for their first game of NCAA Super Regionals on the road against Baylor University at 4 p.m. today. But his high-school baseball coach was eager to sing his former pupil’s praises.

“Obviously, we are so proud that he’s been able to do what he’s done,” Fitch said. “He was our first Razorback, and the last couple of years, we’ve took the kids up there to watch him play with the Razorbacks. It’s a positive experience for the kids.”

History making seemed like a full-time job for Bates during his high-school days at Cabot, as he was the first Panther to sign with the U of A and the first to be drafted.

He was also a part of history on the basketball side as part of a team which broke a 33-year drought of no state-tournament appearances during his senior year in 2008.

.conditioning. Bates made a statement early in the season with a strong performance against Villanova to start the year.

In three games, Bates went 5 for 9 at the plate and recorded his first career home run for the U of A in the second game. He also had a home run in the finale and drove in nine total RBI. Bates has six career home runs as a Razorback.

Bates also performed well as a junior, playing in 25 games before illness sidelined him for the final weeks of the 2011 season. He was named to the SEC first-year academic honor roll and finished the season with a .237 average. He had 14 hits in 59 at bats and had seven RBI.

Bates entered college at Crowder with plans on majoring in business/finance, but switched to recreation/sports management upon entering the U of A.

His time at Crowder Jr. College got the attention of Division I schools as Bates posted a .435 batting average with 20 home runs and 119 RBI through two seasons, and helped lead the Riders to the 2010 NJCAA World Series. He was also named to the All-American team that season

Bates also helped lead the Panthers to the semifinals of the 7A state tournament during his junior year in 2007, and had the rare accomplishment of being a four-year starter by the end of his high-school career.

He was named all conference from his sophomore season on, and was also a three-year starter in basketball.

“One of the things that perhaps you don’t see as much these days that Sam has is a tremendous work ethic,” Fitch said. “He is very self motivated. He knew he had some ability, and he worked hard to develop it. You don’t see many 6-5 left-handed power hitters, and I think scouts like that. Even if you go 0-3 the day before, you still wake up as a 6-5, 230-pound lefty.”

He was also a strong contributor on the Cabot Centennial Bank American Legion teams from 2006-2009, and still holds many team records, including best career batting average with a .401.

His performances in 2007 and 2009 are still the top two season averages at .512 and .474 respectively. He is the all-time RBI leader with 88, and he is third on the career home runs list.