Two U baseball players expected to go in draft

by Anthony Maggio

Almost every child who plays baseball dreams of one day making it to the major leagues. On Tuesday, the 2001 First Year Player draft gets underway, giving a group of players their chance to realize lifelong dreams.

Two members of Minnesota’s team, third baseman Jack Hannahan and pitcher Mike Kobow, are likely to be selected during the three day, 50-round draft.

Baseball America magazine lists the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Hannahan as a second to fifth round pick in its draft preview issue. Hannahan was the Big Ten Player of the Year and led the Gophers to the conference tournament title.

Hannahan hit .372 with 15 home runs and 63 RBI, and coach John Anderson calls him “the best defensive third baseman I’ve ever coached.”

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Kobow has been contacted by 15 to 20 teams and has been told he is an 8th to 15th round pick.

The junior hurler was a first-team All-Big Ten selection, posting a 10-3 record with a 4.65 ERA and 88 strikeouts.

Another Gopher pitcher, Ben Birk, was drafted in the 24th round of last year’s draft by Florida, but stayed at Minnesota for his senior year. He signed with the Marlins last Tuesday.

Since Hannahan and Kobow are both juniors, they could be drafted but return to Minnesota for their senior years. Their respective teams would hold their draft rights allowing the duo to sign by the deadline of a week before the next draft.

Many in the Gopher organization believe Hannahan will likely leave due to the leverage gained from being a junior selected in the higher rounds of the draft.

If players like Hannahan do not get offered what they want, they can return to school.

“I don’t think there has been any secret that this is what (Hannahan) has wanted since high school,” assistant head coach Rob Fornasiere said. “I look for him to be an outstanding pro.”

Juniors like Kobow, who are tabbed for the later rounds of the draft, face a slightly different scenario. Contract offers are smaller, making the jump less lucrative for players drafted.

“I would take (leaving school) into consideration,” Kobow said. “But I like this school so it’s got to be the right situation.”

Among the teams that have contacted Kobow include the Minnesota Twins, who have the first selection in the draft.

“We have some strong interest in Hannahan, and there’s also interest in Kobow,” Mark Wilson, Twins Midwest area scout, said. “I think that is probably true throughout all of major league baseball.”

The Twins are still in the process of deciding who they will select with the first pick, which is only a day away.

“Its going to come down to crunch time on decision making,” Wilson said. “Probably down to the last minute.”

Wilson said the Twins’ two highest considerations currently are catcher Joe Mauer of Cretin-Derham Hall high school in St. Paul and pitcher Mark Prior of USC.

Rounding out the teams with the top five selections are Chicago (Cubs), Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and Texas.


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