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Monday, June 6, 2011

Bird, Aurora players await MLB Draft

Grandview star Greg Bird, a catcher/first baseman, is a potential pick in the top five
rounds of the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft, which runs June 6-8. 

With just a few hours remaining before the 2011 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, Grandview's Greg Bird is certain of one thing he won't be doing after the three-day process is over: chasing bears.

The Wolves' 6-foot-3, 215-pound star catcher/first baseman is expected to be the first Colorado high school player off the board in the 50-round draft, which also includes players from the college ranks, and could end up netting a lucrative contract offer if he is selected early enough.

Gatorade's Colorado player of the year in baseball won't be letting the process affect his sanity, afterall he has already signed a scholarship offer to play at the University of Arkansas. Bird has been projected to be picked anywhere between rounds No. 2-5 in the draft, which begins at 5 p.m. Monday and continues Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Coach (Grandview's Dean) Adams always tells me, you're in a win-win situation; you get drafted, sign for a ton of money and go play baseball like everybody dreams about or you go to Arkansas and get to play baseball in a great program," said Bird, a left-handed hitter who hit .553 with 12 home runs and 37 RBI as a senior. "Whatever happens, you won't find me running around in a forest chasing bears."

Bird got something of a preview last season when highly-touted teammate Kevin Gausman, a standout right-handed pitcher, went through the process. The hard-throwing Gausman dropped further than expected, falling all the way to the sixth round and the 202nd overall pick. Negotiations broke down and Gausman ended up going to Louisiana State, where he was 5-6 with a 3.51 ERA for the Tigers.

"Watching what happened with Kevin last year, it's all about whoever takes you," said Bird, who is playing in the California Collegiate League over the summer. "We have a pretty good idea of how things are going to go down, but I've learned not to get too excited or get your hopes up too high. The draft is always filled with surprises."

While Bird is a virtual lock, several other Aurora prep standouts have a chance to be selected as well.

Among those would could get a call are Bird's Grandview teammate Jerod Smith (a Univ. of San Diego signee), Regis Jesuit's Connor McKay (Kansas) and Drew Merten (Lamar C.C.), Cherokee Trail outfield prospect Mikel Mucha (Wichita State) and Michigan-bound Smoky Hill pitching star Matt Ogden.

Some college players with Aurora ties could also go, a group led by former Regis Jesuit pitcher Steve Dennison out of Wheaton College.

Dennison — a 6-7 left-handed pitcher, a 2007 Regis Jesuit graduate — was taken in the 34th round of last season's draft (1,037th overall) by the Florida Marlins, but chose to return to school. He went 3-4 with two saves and a 6.20 ERA in 14 appearances with the Thunder.

Cherokee Trail grad Zach Dando, a right-handed pitcher who played the past two seasons at Central Arizona College, is also a possibility.

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