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Rays feel Hamilton has makings of star
Posted: Wednesday June 02, 1999 08:15 PM
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- Josh Hamilton's most vivid dreams about draft day didn't compare to the real thing.
The North Carolina high school star wasn't surprised to be the No. 1 overall pick on Wednesday, but there was no way to project how it would make him feel.
"I worked toward just being drafted my whole life," Hamilton said after the Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected him over Texas prep pitching prospect Josh Beckett and college catcher Eric Munson.
"But being the first pick is an honor. There are a lot of great players. I'm just excited that Tampa Bay thinks of me being the best player in the country," Hamilton added.
There were more than 50 family members, friends and reporters at Hamilton's home in Raleigh, N.C. when the 6-foot-4, 205-pound outfielder received a call from Tampa Bay scouting director Dan Jennings.
The 18-year-old left-handed hitter who draws comparisons to New York Yankees All-Star Paul O'Neill hit .529 with 13 homers and 35 RBIs in 25 games as a senior at Athens Drive High School. He also stole 20 bases, walked 26 times and scored 34 runs while striking out just seven times.
Devil Rays general manager Chuck LaMar described Hamilton as a "classic five-tool" player with the physical and mental makeup to develop into a star.
"He can run. He can field. He can throw. He can hit. And he can hit with power ... And if you had to add a sixth tool to it, it would be intangibles," LaMar said.
"We know the attrition rate of players coming through a minor league system. But this young man not only has the God-given talent, but all the intangibles to reach the major leagues and have an impact for us," LaMar added.
The general manager stressed, however, that the Devil Rays don't have a timetable for Hamilton to reach the majors. He won't be rushed just because he's a No. 1 pick.
"I guess it would be very easy for me to say this guy is going to make it in this amount of years," LaMar said. "We are not going to put that kind of pressure on his head. We're going to let him succeed at his own rate. He'll drive that train himself."
Hamilton, a two-time North Carolina high school player of the year, also pitched this spring and had a 7-1 record with 91 strikeouts in 56 innings.
The Devil Rays project him as a right fielder, a decision the first prep player to be taken as the first overall pick since Alex Rodriguez in 1993 doesn't argue.
"I'll always miss pitching. It's been a big part of my career, growing up and everything," Hamilton said. "But I think position player is the right choice for me."
The Devil Rays insisted signability was not a factor in the decision to draft Hamilton, who said he's committed to turning pro and wants to put contract talks behind him as fast as possible.
LaMar said once a deal is done, Hamilton probably will begin with one of Tampa Bay's rookie league teams.
"I want it to be done as quick as possible, so we can get everything in order and I can go and start playing right away," Hamilton said, adding he's confident he'll be able to handle the added scrutiny that goes with being the No. 1 pick.
"It might put pressure on me," he said, "but I don't think it'll bother me because I just out there to play and do what I've been doing my whole life."
The Devil Rays are just as confident they made the right decision."We've watched him for a long time," LaMar said. "Josh Hamilton withstood every test that we gave him, whether it be his performance on the field or questions we asked. ... We feel like he's the No. 1 player in this draft."
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