June 7, 2011 - by
The Chosen Five

June 7, 2011

By Bob Thomas, Seminoles.com

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A day off from the practice field didn’t mean a day without baseball for a large number of Florida State players Tuesday.

While a dozen or so Seminoles gathered in the video room in the bowels of Dick Howser Stadium to monitor the Major League Draft via the internet, a few opted to get away. Some chose to go watch the Texas A&M-Arizona regional championship game.

Seniors Mike McGee and Rafael Lopez headed off for an early dinner, only to have it interrupted by separate phone calls just a few minutes apart.

McGee, FSU’s senior centerfielder and pitcher, didn’t have to endure the two day wait of a year ago to receive the call that every player dreams about from a young age. The Seattle Mariners selected one of the most productive players in Seminole history in the 15th round.

“I am happy; definitely pleased,” said McGee, who was the 453rd selection overall. “I got picked today. I’m glad that a lot of my teammates got picked today. I was actually at dinner with Raffy when he got picked. I had just got off the phone when his phone rang. It was really neat.”

Lopez, a third-year starting catcher and the successor to Buster Posey, was the Chicago Cubs’ 16th-round selection – No. 489 overall.

McGee and Lopez were the first of five Seminoles selected on the second day of the three-day MLB Draft. They followed junior teammate Sean Gilmartin, who was chosen 28th overall by Atlanta with the Braves’ first-round choice.

With a day to go and at least a one more draft-eligible Seminole likely to be tabbed, the 2011 FSU team has already equaled last season’s total for players selected. Perhaps more importantly, two of the players who opted to return to school this season after being chosen in the 2010 draft, improved their status.

McGee was selected in the 41st round by the Arizona Diamondbacks last season and moved up 26 rounds. Junior outfielder Taiwan Easterling, who was tabbed by the Florida Marlins in the 31st round last season after playing sparingly, went to the Cubs in the 27th round (No. 819) Tuesday.

“That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” FSU assistant coach Mike Martin, Jr. said, specifically referring to McGee. “Good things happen to good people. Hard work has paid off for him and we still think he’s better than (where he was selected).”

Martin, Jr. felt the same away about Easterling, who has made 30 starts and played in all but a dozen games this season after seeing limited action a year ago. A sixth-round choice of the Marlins out of high school, who chose to attend FSU on a football scholarship, has made the most of his extended playing opportunities.

“He’s gotten everything in order in how important the little things are in our game,” Martin, Jr. said of Easterling. “He’s worked hard and it’s an opportunity for him. I don’t know whether he’s going to take it, but we’re all very happy for him. He’s been a great teammate.”

Easterling could be facing the same decision that confronted McGee last year. Despite winning the John Olerud Award as the nation’s best two-way player, he slid late into the final day before he was chosen.

Lopez may have been the day’s biggest surprise. An infielder when he arrived to FSU from Indian River Community College, he was converted to catcher and had the dubious distinction of following in the shadow of another infielder-turned-catcher – Buster Posey.

As he did four years earlier when Posey made the transition from shortstop to catcher, Martin, Jr. was instrumental in teaching the Lopez the nuances that go with being a receiver.

“He’s been the classic case of right place, right time, right mindset and the utmost determination to make himself good,” Martin, Jr. said. “I’m really happy for him. He’s a big-armed catcher; a left-handed hitter. You never know. He may be perfect in the right organization.”

As is always the case, finding the right situation is often key to climbing the professional ranks. In McGee’s case, coming back for his senior season could pay dividends.

“I’m definitely happy I came back,” said McGee, who has earned All-ACC and All-Region Tournament honors while contributing at the plate and on the mound for the Seminoles this season. “I never thought twice about it after I was here. I never once considered I made the wrong decision. … Having another season with my teammates at Florida State and having the season we’ve had has been great.”

The Florida State draft class included a couple of surprises as well.

Senior closer Daniel Bennett, whose 15 saves this seasons ties him for second on the single-season list, was selected in the 19th round by the Detroit Tigers. The durable, side-arm specialist who has made 38 appearances, was chosen with the 587th pick overall.

“He’s valuable,” Martin, Jr. said of Bennett. “The pro people are starting to realize that the radar gun is not the end-all, be-all. There’s a place out there for pitchers who can get guys out.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise was how long junior right fielder James Ramsey had to wait for his name to be called. The Seminoles’ leader in batting average, RBI, slugging percentage and total bases had anticipated a call somewhere in the first 10 rounds. Instead, the Regional Tournament MVP and All-American candidate went in the 22nd – No. 688 – to the Minnesota Twins.

“Obviously we all think he’s better than that,” Martin, Jr. said of Ramsey, who has been arguably the Seminoles’ most valuable position player. “I don’t agree with where he was drafted, – it’s disappointing – but it’s still an honor to be drafted. … I’d love for him to come back his senior year because he can do better.”

With the draft winding to a close Wednesday, the Seminoles will return to the practice field late in the day to being preparation for the Super Regional, which will begin Saturday (4:30 p.m., ESPNU-HD). FSU will meet Texas A&M, which defeated Arizona 3-0 in Tuesday to capture the College Station (Texas) Regional.

The Seminoles are 2-0 all-time against the Aggies with both meetings coming in the postseason. The two schools last met in opening game of the 1999 College World Series, when FSU began its run to the championship game with a 7-3 victory at Rosenblatt Stadium. The `Noles also scored a 12-9 win over the Aggies in the 1986 Regional in Tallahassee.


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