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Prep pitcher Ball excited to go to Sox at No. 7

Prep pitcher Ball excited to go to Sox at No. 7

Prep pitcher Ball excited to go to Sox at No. 7

BOSTON -- For a while, there was a position dilemma for Trey Ball, the 18-year-old from Indiana the Red Sox selected with the seventh overall pick in Thursday's First-Year Player Draft.

It was a good kind of problem. Ball was a tremendous pitcher and a star left-handed hitter.

However, Ball made his name as a left-handed pitcher in this, his senior year at New Castle (Ind.) Chrysler High School. And it seems apparent the mound is where his future will be.

"Growing up, I always did two-way, so I was open minded to anything," Ball said. "But coming [out] this year, this spring, my pitching came out strongest this year, and that's what took off this year for me."

In picking as high as seventh for the first time since grabbing Trot Nixon in 1993, the Red Sox took Ball, considered the best southpaw pitcher in this year's Draft.

"I think we're just basically taking the best player [available]," said Red Sox director of amateur scouting Amiel Sawdaye. "I know that's something we say all the time, but it just worked out. The way the board shook out, Trey Ball was the best player available. We don't target a certain area. When you start to do that, you probably do become a little reckless giving up a few names at the end of the day might not be the best player. You have to take the best player on the board."

Ball was stunned and excited when the Red Sox called his name.

"Coming in, I'd heard mostly between 8 and 14," Ball said. "Being picked seventh by Boston, it was great. I was speechless. It's kind of surprising. I had no idea where it was coming from. I guess it was a last-minute decision, but I'm not sure. It's a moment of greatness, and I'm very excited, very happy."

The Red Sox think Ball will be fine putting away his bat and becoming a full-time pitcher.

"We actually haven't discussed that with him, but I think we've talked about pitching with him," said Sawdaye. "He never expressed an interest in hitting. We're going to send him out as a pitcher and hopefully when he gets to the big leagues, he'll hit in Interleague games."

If the six teams in front of the Red Sox had maneuvered differently, perhaps they would have gone in a different direction. But there were no complaints from Boston's front office about winding up with Ball.

"By definition of the Draft, particularly that high, any selection is going to be a last-minute decision because you don't know for sure who's going to be there," said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington. "We had our board lined up, and there were six players taken in front of us, and he was the top player on our board at the time we chose.

"By definition, it's a last-minute decision, but he was certainly amongst a group of players who we had spent a lot of time on and we knew was a candidate for that first pick, and we were very comfortable taking him with that first pick. We didn't know for sure who was going to be there until it came time to pick."

The Red Sox now start the process of trying to sign Ball, who has a commitment to the University of Texas.

"Right now, it's still open," Ball said. "We haven't shut the door on anything. But it's the best fit for me and my family. Anything can happen, but I feel that Boston is right for me."

A baseball player in a basketball-crazed state, Ball takes pride in elevating his game to the point where a team like the Red Sox snagged him so early in the Draft.

"The basketball, I played until my sophomore year when I decided to give it up and focus on baseball," said Ball. "My job was to dunk. I'm one of the kids from Indiana who can't shoot. My shooting skills are not very good."

Despite the cold elements, which made his season shorter than many of the other top amateur talents, Ball was able to take his skills to a high level.

"The weather was actually awful this year," Ball said. "We had a lot of snow and rain, and it was very cold. I remember pitching at night when it was 30 degrees and sleeting out. I mean, it's been pretty bad. Northern kids, they don't get out until later in the year. I think that gives us time to work on stuff that we need to work on and progress."

The Boston scouts and front-office members who tracked Ball can attest that he was not exaggerating about the weather.

"We saw him his first outing, I can't remember the date," said Sawdaye. "I think for people that are in tune with the scouting process, the Midwest schedule starts pretty late. Couple that with a really, really bad weather year in the Midwest.

"It was a challenge to spend a lot of time and see him, because you're going in and the games were getting rained out and you might have to spend two days in Indiana to see him. And obviously the fields, they're not tarped.

"Everybody on our staff saw him. In fact, a lot of people on our staff saw him hit and pitch, because obviously you would go see a doubleheader, and I want to say it was probably at least a two-month process. I'm guessing he probably started end of March and finished end of May."

Even if he didn't expect to be picked at No. 7, Ball at least knew he was on Boston's radar.

"We had a lot of contact with them in the spring," said Ball. "They sent in multiple guys to come visit and have meetings with me. They sent in their [area scout]."

Listed at 6-foot-5, 174 pounds, Ball will turn 19 later this month. Ball is what scouts like to refer to as projectable.

His fastball travels into the low-to-mid 90s. Ball's changeup is a plus pitch. The curveball is a work in progress, but has promise, according to scouts.

"Right now, I feel like my fastball is my go-to pitch," said Ball. "I need more development work with my changeup and my curveball. I've only been throwing a curveball for about a year-and-a-half now. My father had restricted me on throwing a curveball to preserve my arm, so I didn't have to risk that injury. I see myself working on the curveball a lot, improving that."

Major League Baseball invited a select group of prospects to attend this year's Draft live in Secaucus, N.J. As much as Ball appreciated the invite, he decided to stay home with his family.

Given the way the night transpired, Ball was thrilled with his decision to stay home.

"Not all of my family could have made it," Ball said. "I just wanted to spend that moment with my family at that instant moment. They had been with me ever since growing up, and they had been supporting with me ever since, so I wanted to share that moment with them."

It was a packed house.

"We had 30 here," Ball said. "All sets of my grandparents, my uncles, my aunts. My friends, my girlfriend and her family. I had everyone."

Hopefully someone in Ball's family had a video camera rolling during the moment the Red Sox selected him.

"We were all surprised. Once they read the name, everyone erupted and everyone was yelling and screaming," Ball said. "I hugged my mom first, and that was a moment I'll never forget."

The Red Sox hope to be as successful with Ball as they were after taking a high school lefty named Jon Lester back in 2002. Fittingly, Lester was on the mound for the Sox on Thursday, taking a no-decision on a game his team won on a walk-off homer by David Ortiz.

"Hopefully he's excited," Lester said of Ball. "I remember the day well. A lot of emotions obviously, for yourself and for your family. It's every kid's dream to not only get drafted, but hopefully get to the big leagues. Hopefully he's feeling a lot of excitement. Maybe we can get him signed and get him moving."

The pitcher Ball models himself after is strike-thrower extraordinaire Cliff Lee.

Ball clubbed 10 home runs in his senior year of high school. As a pitcher, he was 6-0 with a 0.76 ERA.

Day 2 of the Draft continues with Rounds 3-10, streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m. ET. And Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m.

MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

In the pipeline

Ball and Teddy Stankiewicz -- taken with the 45th overall pick -- give the Red Sox a couple of big power arms in the lower Minors, joining lefty Henry Owens as pitchers who could play big roles in the Majors at some point. Boston also has a few pitchers in the upper Minors to be excited about, including Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster, Matt Barnes and Anthony Ranuado.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["draft_central" ] }
{"event":["draft_central" ] }