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Thursday, June 9, 2005

Jayhawks dodge draft bullet

Three players drafted, but outfielder Van Slyke only junior leaving for pros

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After the dust settles from Wednesday's conclusion of baseball's amateur draft, Kansas University coach Ritch Price expects one thing to be absent from his roster.

No, it's not a starting pitcher or sweet-swinging outfielder.

It's "draftitis."

"Once you get through your junior year, there's no pressure," Price said. "They'll have the best year of their careers next year. And they'll be affordable signs for pro clubs a year from now."

The Jayhawk skipper was speaking about junior outfielders Matt Baty and Gus Milner, along with shortstop Ritchie Price and right-handed pitcher Kodiak Quick.

Milner and Quick had hopes of going in the draft's first 15 rounds, but when that window passed, it sealed their return to Hoglund Ballpark in 2006. Milner was tapped in the 47th round by the Cleveland Indians, the 1,406th pick overall.

One junior who will not be back, however, is outfielder A.J. Van Slyke, who was a 23rd-round selection by the team he grew up watching in his back yard -- the St. Louis Cardinals.

Van Slyke was the Jayhawks' biggest offensive standout in 2005, leading the team with 12 home runs and 57 RBIs while hitting .323. He's following in the footsteps of his father, Andy Van Slyke, who hit 41 home runs and drove in 204 runs for the Cardinals in the first four years of his major-league career.

Four rounds before Van Slyke's name came off the board, KU catcher Sean Richardson received some good news of his own. The senior from Vista, Calif., went in the 19th round to the Minnesota Twins.

Richardson could be switched to the outfield in the pros.

"I haven't heard anything about going to outfield yet," he said. "I'll be catching until they tell me otherwise. Scouts always liked my athletic ability behind the plate. I knew there might be a chance I might get moved there eventually.

"I'm just excited, and I'm just glad I'm going to be getting an opportunity."

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