Tuesday was an important day in the life of Juneau's Chad Bentz, but he didn't stick around home to hear the good news.
Bentz was chosen by the Montreal Expos in the seventh round of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft for Major League Baseball, making him the 203rd pick overall.
A left-handed sophomore pitcher at Long Beach State, Bentz was considered one of the draft's top prospects. But Bentz said he didn't plan to be sitting around, waiting for the call telling him when he was picked and which team chose him.
"I'm going fishing," Bentz said Monday night.
Bentz had been through this before. In 1999 he was one of four Alaskans picked in the draft following his senior year at Juneau-Douglas High School. Bentz was picked in the 34th round by the New York Yankees, but chose to attend Long Beach State instead of signing a pro contract.
"Once it got to the second day, I realized I wasn't going anywhere high," Bentz said of the 1999 draft. "But that first day, I was waiting and waiting."
Bentz didn't have to wait so long for the call this year.
"They (several major league teams) all called me today and told me it would probably be around 10-11 a.m. (Alaska time) when I was picked," Bentz said. "You might hear about it before I do. They just told me good luck. I feel a lot more comfortable about this draft."
Late last week Bentz said most of clubs who'd contacted him were telling him he might go anywhere between the second and the fifth rounds. The highest any Alaskan has ever gone in the draft was late in the fourth round last year, when the Atlanta Braves picked former Dimond High pitcher Brian Montalbo with the 130th pick overall. Montalbo didn't sign and just completed his freshman year at the University of California-Berkeley.
Baseball America draft guru Allan Simpson, who compiles all the prospect rankings for the magazine, said Bentz might go a little bit later than the top five rounds.
"He's only a sophomore, so he's got double leverage," said Simpson, meaning Bentz can return to school if he doesn't
like where he's picked. "I would be surprised if he went in the first 10 rounds, though he might slip in somewhere between the eighth and 10th round. Some of the teams were a little worried about his performance this year."
Regardless of where he's picked, Bentz plans to pitch for the Orleans (Mass.) Cardinals in the Cape Cod League this
summer while he negotiates with the team that chooses him. The Cape Cod League is one of the top amateur leagues in the country and Bentz said it will be a nice change of pace. The last two summers Bentz pitched for the Anchorage Glacier Pilots of the Alaska League, another of the nation's top amateur programs.
Bentz recently was featured on Major League Baseball's pre-draft coverage on its Web site, MLB.com in a feature story, called "The Next Jim Abbott?" The feature included a radio interview on the Web site, and another interview
with Jim Abbott where Bentz's prospects were discussed. Bentz has been compared to Abbott because both players were born with deformed right hands and learned to overcome the handicap.
"Chad's a great kid. He's enthusiastic and he's having some success at Long Beach State, which is a great program,"
Abbott said in the interview. "He's a young pitcher who's working on some of the things we were discussing (mastering
both sides of the plate). He's got a good fastball and he's learning how to locate it. He's a big strong kid and he's adapted to the Southern California lifestyle. He's got all the makings of a pro pitcher and I hope he gets that chance."
Bentz met Abbott last year when Long Beach State coach Dave Snow set up a meeting.
"I like Jim Abbott and I like what he represented," Bentz said when asked if he's ever wished the comparisons were to
other top lefties like Randy Johnson or David Wells. "I like him."
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