NYPL notes: Naquin begins his quest

Scrappers outfielder ready to prove his value as first-rounder

By Brian Moynahan / Special to MLB.com | June 29, 2012 6:33 AM ET

On the first day of the 2012 Draft, Tyler Naquin sat at home with a few family members and close friends and waited to see what the future held.

The outfielder from Texas A&M knew he had done enough to merit consideration as a first-round pick. As a sophomore in 2011, he hit .381, won the Big 12 Player of the Year award and led the Aggies to the school's first College World Series appearance since 1999.

This spring, the 21-year-old junior turned in another strong performance, batting .380 with a .458 on-base percentage and 21 stolen bases. The team did not fare as well, reaching the NCAA tournament for the sixth consecutive year but falling in the Regionals to TCU the day before the Draft.

"That was a sad day," Naquin said. "I knew it was going to be pretty much the last hurrah in college, last game, and I was upset, but I knew I had something to look forward to. And I had a really good chance to go in the first round."

Naquin expected to be selected somewhere between the 20th and 30th picks in the first round and had an inkling that the Cardinals (picks 19 and 23) and Braves (pick 21) might take him.

He was surprised when the Cleveland Indians beat them both to the punch, taking him off the board at No. 15 overall.

"I went a little high," he said. "I went about six or seven picks higher than I thought I was going to go. It was an emotional roller coaster. I didn't have a whole bunch of people there. It was just me and my mom, dad, grandma, my uncle, my brother, couple best friends, and kind of got in a room with my high school assistant coach and just, 'Hey, they're calling my name.'

"It's an experience you can't really explain."

After the Draft, Naquin proved eager to get to work. He signed just 10 days later for $1.75 million, $500,000 below the $2.25 million value assigned to the 15th overall pick.

"I couldn't fathom the thought of a guy out of college getting $1.75 million and trying to bug the team for a little more when not everybody in the Draft is getting that slot number because of the new [CBA]," said Naquin. "I was able to get a lot of money, and I thought, 'Hey, if they want to give me that much money, I'm going to go out and start playing so I can get up to the Indians and help the big ballclub as soon as I can."

Naquin's college coach, Rob Childress, joined his former player in remembering the past but looking to the future.

"I just told him how proud I was of him and appreciated everything he did for our program, and now his quest is to go play in the big leagues," said Childress. "And there's not a doubt in my mind that that's what he's going to do."

The Indians are taking it slow with Naquin -- he debuted with Mahoning Valley on June 20 and has played in just four of the team's first 10 games -- but the 6-foot-2, 175-pound outfielder whom Childress describes as "a throwback" with "a passion for the game" is still off to an impressive start, hitting .438 with two RBIs, a stolen base and a pair of three-hit performances.

It's not uncommon for players to struggle with the adjustment from amateur baseball to the professional ranks. Naquin has only been a professional ballplayer for about two weeks, but he is very clear on the way he feels about his new job.

"It's awesome," he said. "I mean, I don't know if it's really that big of an adjustment. At A&M, we were grinding every day. We had a couple more off days than here, obviously, also had class and whatnot, but I played three postseasons at A&M. It's just like pro ball. You don't have any school, you get meal money. Here you get a contract, but it's just a different bat, to be honest.

"A different bat and some good baseball players and just playing every day."

In brief

Another Monster in the Majors: Oakland's Derek Norris became the 66th member of the Vermont Lake Monsters to reach the big leagues when he debuted June 21, according to the team. Washington's fourth-round selection in the 2007 Draft, Norris played in the New York-Penn League in 2008 and hit .278 while throwing out 47 percent of would-be base stealers. He was traded to the A's with three other players last December in a deal for pitcher Gio Gonzalez.

Step in the right direction: The State College Spikes won five games in a row from June 21-25, the team's longest winning streak since a nine-game run from June 26-July 4, 2007. The Spikes' 7-3 record is the best in team history through 10 games.

Remembering a pioneer: June 24 marked the 40th anniversary of the debut of Bernice Gera, who in 1972 became the first female umpire in modern professional baseball history. Originally hired by the New York-Penn League in 1969, Gera's contract was disapproved by the president of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues because she did not meet the physical requirements for umpires. After a lengthy court battle earned her the right to umpire professionally, Gera worked one game, an NYPL contest between the Geneva Senators and Auburn Phillies, before handing in her resignation.

Brian Moynahan is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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