Underwood, five others leads local draft crop
by Carlton D. White
cwhite@mdjonline.com
June 06, 2012 01:11 AM | 3251 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A fifth-round pick by Arizona, Kennesaw State’s Ronnie Freeman, left, was one of six players with Cobb County ties drafted Tuesday.
<BR>Staff file photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
A fifth-round pick by Arizona, Kennesaw State’s Ronnie Freeman, left, was one of six players with Cobb County ties drafted Tuesday.
Staff file photo by Jon-Michael Sullivan
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After not seeing any players with local ties taken Monday, Cobb County had six selected in Tuesday’s portion of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

Day 2 of the draft focused on Rounds 2-15, and it didn’t take long for Pope pitcher Duane Underwood to be chosen. He was drafted with the seventh pick of the second round — 67th overall — by the Chicago Cubs.

Harrison’s Matt Gonzalez also was chosen Tuesday, as were college players Spencer Kieboom, Ronnie Freeman, Ryan Newell and Casey Shriver.

Underwood, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound right-hander who signed with Georgia, had a 2.36 ERA with 75 strikeouts for Pope this year. He also owned a .337 batting average with six home runs, 19 RBIs and 13 stolen bases.

Underwood became the highest-drafted baseball player in Pope’s history, and the sixth to have been drafted since 1999.

Underwood, in Ohio on a family vacation, was about to go fishing when he received a text message from a teammate informing him of his draft position.

“It’s a great feeling to get drafted,” he said. “To have an opportunity to play in the major leagues is everything I’ve ever wanted, and I appreciate (the Cubs) for picking me.

“It would be a dream come true to play at Wrigley (Field). There’s a lot of history there. I’ve been there once before and was impressed with everything.”

Underwood was following advice from his friend, Chevez Clarke, the former Marietta outfielder drafted in the first round by the Los Angeles Angels in 2010.

Underwood didn’t follow the draft, instead leaving the area to relax.

“Chevez suggested that I should just stay away from it,” he said. “The anticipation gets heavy. It’s a high-risk, high-reward type of thing, so he said I should just keeping doing what I’m doing and just enjoy life.”

Underwood’s high draft status has left him with a big decision to make — something he won’t take lightly given his scholarship to play at Georgia.

“I’m going to discuss everything with my family,” he said. “I’m not leaning one way or the other and won’t make a decision this week. I just want to spend this time with my family, but it is an honor.”

Kieboom, a Clemson junior and former standout at Walton, was taken by the Washington Nationals with the 174th pick in the fifth round. The catcher batted .250 with three home runs, 33 RBIs and 25 runs scored in 56 starts for the Tigers.

One of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s top defensive catchers, Kieboom committed only three errors and did not allow a passed ball.

“I was hoping to be drafted (Tuesday),” Kieboom said. “I was curious to see how things were going, so I went to my computer to watch and just happened to see my name come across on the screen with my family. It was a great feeling.”

Nine picks after Kieboom’s name was called, another junior catcher, Kennesaw State’s Freeman, was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The 6-1, 190-pound Freeman batted .352 for the Owls and ended the season second in the Atlantic Sun Conference with 52 RBIs.

“It’s pretty overwhelming,” he said. “I’m still trying to take it all in. I was home with my family watching it live and just waited for the call. I heard from my advisor, and we figured I’d get a call (Tuesday), but we weren’t sure what round.

“An area scout called me about a minute later and filled me in on what’s supposed to happen over the next couple of days and where things go from here.”

Freeman let on that his career at Kennesaw State would likely be coming to an end.

“I think I’m ready to play pro baseball now,” he said. “College has prepared me a lot, and I think the time to do it is right now.”

Newell, a junior right-handed pitcher at Shorter, was chosen by the Miami Marlins in the seventh round. Another right-hander, Southern Poly’s Shriver, was a 10th-round pick by the Texas Rangers.

Gonzalez, a shortstop, was taken by the Oakland Athletics in the 11th round.

Many draft boards had Allatoona pitcher Clate Schmidt as a potential early draft pick, but his name has yet to be called. Even if he is taken today, when the draft concluded with rounds 16-40, Schmidt said he’s decided that playing next year at Clemson would be his best course of action.

“(My family and I) talked to some of the area scouts and teams before the draft and let them know ahead of time of my decision,” he said. “We thought it was best for me to go to college and develop as a player and as a person. It really wasn’t a surprise that I wasn’t picked because teams knew where I was heading.”
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