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Wednesday, June 4, 2003

KU’s Spanish drafted

Braves select Jayhawk outfielder in 12th round

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One of Casey Spanish's earliest memories of the Atlanta Braves came when they were the enemy in the 1991 World Series.

"I was rooting for the Twins," quipped Spanish, a native of Savage, Minn.

Spanish, a Kansas University baseball senior, was drafted in the 12th round by Atlanta in the major league baseball draft Tuesday.

The Braves contacted Spanish twice after being selected, and negotiations should begin soon.

"I went a little later than I was projected," Spanish said, "but this is a great situation to be in with the Braves. It is just a great accomplishment for any baseball player to be drafted."

The first day of the draft saw 20 of the 50 rounds completed. Spanish, an outfielder, was the lone Kansas player selected Tuesday, though juniors Ryan Baty and Matt Tribble are strong possibilities to be picked today. Often, college juniors are a risk since they have the option of returning to school for their senior years. That likely bumped Baty and Tribble out of the first 20 rounds.

But for Spanish, at least, the tension of the past few weeks is finally done.

"It's pretty exciting," Spanish said. "It's kind of a relief, for sure."

Spanish was named second-team All-Big 12 after hitting .383 with 12 home runs, 55 RBIs and 14 stolen bases for the Jayhawks this year, leading them to their first-ever Big 12 Conference tournament appearance.

For his career, Spanish hit .320 with 18 homers, 110 RBIs and 41 stolen bases.

"I think it's a great opportunity and obviously a quality organization," KU coach Ritch Price said. "Casey is a tremendously talented player. I'm very proud of him."

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Jackpot: Tom Gorzelanny, a former KU pitcher, was selected in the second round Tuesday by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Gorzelanny, who transferred to Triton Junior College after being ruled academically inelgible at Kansas in January, was the 45th overall pick in the draft.

"It's no surprise," Price said. "We thought he was a first- or second-rounder after fall ball. "We did some remarkable things this year, but I really believe we could've been the story of college baseball if we could've kept him."

In 2002, his lone season at Kansas, Gorzelanny was 3-7 with a 5.90 earned run average. He had improved his fastball and threw as hard as 94 mph while at Triton, significantly improving his draft position.

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Another former player drafted: Former KU catcher Cole Armstrong was selected in the 16th round by the Atlanta Braves. Armstrong transferred to Chipola Junior College in Florida after hitting .260 with two home runs in 2002, his only season at Kansas.

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Big 12 fares well: Overall, the Big 12 Conference had 32 players drafted on the first day, including 22 in the first 10 rounds.

The highest-picked Big 12 player? Baylor's David Murphy, a sweet-swinging outfielder who went in the first round -- 17th overall -- to the Boston Red Sox.

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