BASEBALL: Headed to Boston
Red Sox make Vitek the 20th overall selection in MLB Draft
Theo Epstein must have liked what he saw.
The Boston Red Sox general manager made a scouting trip to the Mid-American Conference Tournament in Chillicothe, Ohio, last month to personally see Ball State University second baseman Kolbrin Vitek.
Monday, the Red Sox selected Vitek with the 20th pick in the MLB First-Year Player Draft. The newly-minted All-American became Ball State's seventh first round draft pick and first since Brad Snyder was selected by Cleveland with the 18th overall pick in 2003.
Vitek is very happy with his destination and expects to sign a contract very soon, foregoing his senior year at Ball State.
"I'm going to get signed as quick as possible, maybe in about a week or so," he said.
Joe Bick, who is advising Vitek in the draft process, said the signing bonus has been agreed upon with the Red Sox and believes a contract will be in place in about a week.
Neither Vitek nor Bick knows if Boston will send him to their minor league affiliates in Lowell, Mass. or Greenville, N.C. to begin his professional career.
"It will strictly be their call," Bick said. "There were no conversations about that prior to the draft."
Vitek will join former Ball State star Jeremy Hazelbaker in the Boston organization. Hazelbaker was the Red Sox fourth-round selection last year.
Coach Greg Beals is happy two of his former players are now in an organization like Boston's.
"I'm proud of that because it shows they're happy with the type of player we develop," Beals said. "That says a lot about what type of guy Hazelbaker is that they had the confidence to come back to the program for the next guy."
The San Diego Padres also showed strong interest in Vitek before the draft, but ultimately choose Karsten Whitson, a high school pitcher from Florida, with the ninth overall selection. After the Padres passed on him, Vitek began an anxious wait at his home in Bryan, Ohio, with family and friends.
Cincinnati, Texas and the Chicago Cubs all scouted Vitek heavily, but went in different directions as well.
"There was more and more pressure on my shoulders," Vitek said. "I just wanted to get this over with."
After the Cubs took Division II pitcher Hayden Simpson with the 16th pick, the next likely landing spot for him was Boston. Vitek said the Red Sox called him a few minutes before their pick was announced to make sure he was still OK with going to Boston.
When his name was announced by commissioner Bud Selig as Boston's selection the celebration began.
"Once they called my name it was quite exciting," Vitek said. "Everyone was going bonkers."
Vitek could become the latest in a long line of strong draft picks made under during Epstein's tenure. Recent Boston draft picks include 2008 AL MVP Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Daniel Bard. Later in the night, Boston picked Middle Tennessee State University outfielder Bryce Brentz and Louisiana State University starting pitcher Anthony Ranaudo in the first compensation round.
Vitek said he is excited to join such a quality organization with.
"It's an awesome feeling joining such a successful program," he said. "They put a lot of dedication into their players."
Vitek will get a chance to make a name for himself at third base in Boston. After spending this year as the Cardinals' second baseman, the Red Sox plan to move him back to the position he played last year.
Some teams that showed interest before the draft talked about moving him to the outfield, but Vitek prefers to remain in the infield.
"I'm most comfortable in the infield," he said. "I'm excited to play third."
Beals said Vitek will have to set new goals now that he has been drafted, but he is capable of living up to a the expectations set by the former great Red Sox draft picks.
"He has to push himself to play in Fenway Park," Beals said. "If he does that, he will be the next guy they're talking about."