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Mixed Day for Local Players

With a thin crop this year, first-round selections are limited to Weaver, Plouffe and Hughes.

June 08, 2004|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

Trevor Plouffe had a scholarship to USC in his pocket but the Encino Crespi High star sat at home Monday hoping that his name would quickly pop up on the computer as he monitored the selections in Major League Baseball's first-year player draft.

Plouffe didn't have to wait long. His dream was fulfilled when the Minnesota Twins selected him in the first round as the 20th pick overall.

"We were all sitting around the computer and I just kept creeping on down [the web page] and then I saw my name," Plouffe said. "We just started cheering. Anywhere in the first round was good for me."

Plouffe hit .493 with six home runs and was 12-2 on the mound in leading the Celts to the Southern Section Division III championship game.

After getting a call from Twin General Manager Terry Ryan, he indicated that he would immediately begin negotiations with the club and probably pass up USC.

"As soon as I heard my name called, I thought, 'Well, no more homework,' " Plouffe said.

"I just want to be treated fairly. My focus isn't on the money."

Santa Ana Foothill pitcher Phil Hughes was taken three spots later by the New York Yankees. Hughes, a polished 6-foot-5 right-hander, went 9-1 with a 0.69 earned-run average and walked just three batters in 61 innings.

Hughes, who has a scholarship to Santa Clara, was expecting to go to the hometown Angels as the 12th pick and was disappointed when the club took Long Beach State star Jered Weaver. The mood changed when he got the call from the Yankees.

"I was ecstatic," he said. "The Yankees are just a great organization. Their minor league system is not that strong right now and I think I have a great chance to move up. I thought it was the best fit for me.

"I guess it was a last-minute thing with the Angels. It's my hometown team and it would have been fun to play for them."

The draft reflected what scouts considered to be a thin year for Southern California high school talent. The next area high school player taken after Hughes was Walnut outfielder Greg Burns, a Hawaii signee, in the third round by the Florida Marlins.

Local college players attracted greater interest. UC Irvine junior pitcher Brett Smith was taken by the Yankees at the top of the second round after leading the Anteaters to their first Division I playoff berth.

"I came in as a raw player and they taught me how to play the game and to become a player I hope the university will be proud of," Smith said.

Cal State Fullerton catcher Kurt Suzuki, UCLA pitcher-first baseman Wes Whisler and Long Beach State left-hander Jason Vargas also went in the second round. Suzuki went to Oakland, Vargas was selected by Florida and Whisler was tabbed by the Chicago White Sox.

Pitcher Jason Windsor, who led Fullerton into this weekend's NCAA super-regionals against Tulane, was taken in the third round by the A's. Long Beach outfielder John Bowker, a draft-eligible sophomore, also went in the third to San Francisco.

Windsor helped his status in his senior year after going undrafted a year ago. He threw six consecutive complete games in Big West Conference play and won two starts in last weekend's regional.

Other high school players taken in the first few rounds were Westchester first baseman Daryl Jones in the fourth by San Diego, Huntington Beach pitcher Collin Balester in the fourth by Montreal and Rosemead pitcher Enrique Barrera by Kansas City.

The Angels used their 18th-round selection on Villa Park right-handed pitcher Mark Trumbo, whom Baseball America magazine considered to be a second-round selection or higher. Trumbo has signed with USC.

Hughes said the last few days were like being on a roller coaster. "I didn't sleep at all last night," he said.

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