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AAU Baseball Alum drafted 3rd overall in MLB Draft

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Congratulations to AAU Baseball alum and Florida Gator catcher Mike Zunino for being drafted 3rd overall yesterday in the MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners! Zunino made history by becoming the highest drafted Gator, EVER. Read below to find out how Zunino reacted after being drafted.

Originally published at http://espn.go.com/colleges/florida

Written by: Michael DiRocco

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Mike Zunino’s goal all along was to help the Florida baseball team win its first national championship. He earned a spot in program history in the process.

Zunino became the highest-drafted player in UF history when the Seattle Mariners took him third overall in the MLB draft on Monday night. Former UF first baseman Matt LaPorta held that distinction when he was drafted seventh overall by Milwaukee in 2007 — the last time a UF player was selected in the first round.

“I’m just extremely honored,” Zunino said on a conference call. “I got a call maybe 15, 20 minutes before draft (from Mariners officials), and I was extremely ecstatic when I heard my name called by the commissioner.”

Zunino said he got a good feeling about the Mariners after he had dinner with Tom McNamara, the team’s scouting director, and three other Mariners scouts during the offseason.

“It definitely gave me a little bit of a good feeling,” Zunino said. “It was the only team that had done that, and it definitely showed they had interest. It’s just one of these things that helped me breathe a little bit easier.”

Zunino, who earlier on Monday was named one of three finalists for the 2012 Johnny Bench Award, leads the Gators (45-18) in doubles (27), home runs (18), RBIs (60) and slugging (.667). He’s also hitting .316.

But it’s his defensive skills and the way he handles pitchers that has drawn constant praise from UF coach Kevin O’Sullivan throughout Zunino’s three seasons at UF. MLB Network analyst Peter Gammons echoed those compliments when he was interviewed shortly after Zunino was selected.

“He’s got tremendous savvy behind the plate,” Gammons said. “He’s very strong, he’s going to hit home runs, but he’s really good at handling pitchers.”

Defense first, offense second is the way Zunino says he approaches the game.

“I just want to be a well-rounded player,” said Zunino, the 13th UF player to be selected in the first round. “Most important thing is to take pride in my defense. That’s what really defines me as a player. I want to be a good, solid figure back there, help the pitchers out, and whatever I can do at-bat to help the team out.”

Zunino was a 30th-round selection by Oakland in the 2009 draft out of high school. He said he’s much better equipped for professional baseball now than he was three years ago after his time at Florida, which included a pair of College World Series appearances and being named the Southeastern Conference’s Player of the Year in 2011.

“I’ve matured so much since high school,” he said. “I’ve learned that there’s a lot more to the game than hitting, catching and throwing. I’ve learned how to think through things, to take one at-bat at a time, one pitch at a time. Off the field I’ve just matured, knowing to get my priorities in the right line and work hard and let everything fall into place.”

Zunino could have a somewhat quick path to the big leagues, according to ESPN MLB draft expert Kiley McDaniel, even though the Mariners traded for catcher Jesus Montero last season.

The 22-year-old Montero — who was razzed by teammates and coaches in the clubhouse after the Mariners selected Zunino — has been thrust into the starting spot because of a groin injury to Miguel Olivo, but there are significant concerns about his defense, and several ESPN MLB analysts predict an eventual position change.

“Zunino doesn’t have any true plus tools but has above-average tools across the board as a low-risk college performer who can be a solid average defender in the big leagues,” McDaniel wrote in analyzing the selection. “His bat is good, not great, with a likely upside as a .270-.280 hitter with 15-18 home runs, but that’s above average for a catcher.

“In a weak draft, a low-risk, above-average everyday catcher is a great pick and the Mariners can soon abandon the Jesus Montero-behind-the-plate experiment, as Zunino could come quickly.”

Florida pitcher Brian Johnson had a much longer wait than Zunino — as long as it could possibly get.

But Johnson finally heard his name called when the Boston Red Sox selected the left-hander with the final pick of the first round (31st overall). His selection gives the Gators two first-round picks for the first time since 1983, when pitcher Rich Rice and shortstop Robby Thompson were taken by Baltimore and San Francisco, respectively, in the June secondary draft.

Johnson is one of five finalists for the 2012 John Olerud Award, which is presented to the nation’s top two-way player. Johnson is 8-4 with a 3.56 ERA and is hitting .310 with 40 RBIs and five home runs. He’s been a first-team All-SEC selection the past two seasons.

The Gators also potentially lost another player on Monday night when Texas took signee Lewis Brinson of Tamarac, Fla./Coral Springs with the 29th pick. Brinson has work to do offensively but is a good athlete with very good speed in the outfield.

For more information about AAU Baseball, visit www.aaubaseball.org.

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AAU Baseball Super Showcase: Nominate YOUR team Today!

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Lake Buena Vista– Part of the AAU National Championship series, the 14U and the Underclassmen AAU Super Showcases, are the jewels.

Ten of the top teams in the country will be invited to compete at ESPN Wide World of Sports in Walt Disney World ® Resort in Orlando, Florida, June 19-23, 2012.

Included in the $750 per TEAM entry fee will be two 3-bedroom villas at a nearby resort.

The Showcases feature a 5-game schedule with an All-Star Day, after pool play, coached by Major League Baseball alumni, and broadcasted by ESPN3.

All participants in the AAU Super Showcases must be members of the AAU. The Underclassmen age group includes high school players in the graduating class of 2013 and later.

Note that teams normally apply prior to January 1 for the AAU 14U and Underclassmen Super Showcases.

To be considered for an invitation to the Super Showcase, CLICK HERE for an application.

All Star Day was a huge success last year. Former MLB player Anthony Telford shares about the day.

Nominate YOUR team Today!

Follow AAU Baseball on Twitter @RealAAUBaseball. Like them on Facebook: The Real AAU for the latest tournament updates and exclusive video and interviews.

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AAU Member is Pepsi MAX Field of Dreams Finalist

Pepsi Max Field of Dreams

Mark Kramer is one of four finalists with a chance to bring an MLB dream team, including Cal Ripken, Jr. and Ken Griffey, Jr., to his community.

Lake Buena Vista, FLLongtime AAU participant Marc Kramer and his 11U Wellington (FL) Colts need your help. Coach Kramer is one step closer to bringing a dream team of major-league baseball greats to his hometown as a finalist in the Pepsi MAX Field of Dreams promotion.

Kramer coaches the 11U Baseball Wellington Colts in the Florida Prospect League, sanctioned by the AAU. Competing against three other baseball enthusiasts from Ohio, New Jersey, and Colorado, Marc is vying for the chance to play the ultimate fan face-off game where he puts together a team of 11 to face off against a team of MLB greats. Together, Kramer and head coach Mike Sasson coached their Wellington Colts into the Diamond division of the 2011 AAU Grand Nationals at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports in June.

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THREE FINALISTS FOR 2011 GOLDEN SPIKES AWARD ANNOUNCED

DURHAM, N.C. — USA Baseball announced Monday the names of the three finalists for the 2011 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award (GSA).  This summer marks the 34th consecutive year that the GSA will be presented to the nation’s premier amateur baseball player.

Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA; Danny Hultzen, LHP/IF/OF, Virginia; and Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas, received the most votes last week from the nearly 200-person GSA voting committee.  The three players represent the first-ever class of finalists made up entirely of pitchers.

Fans can continue to stay up to date on the GSA by visiting GoldenSpikesAward.com — powered by MLB.com — which serves as the online home for the award.  The Web site features content devoted exclusively to the GSA, including news, voting history, past winner photo galleries, and photographs and video highlights for the 2011 finalists.

For the first time ever, the GSA will be awarded live on MLB Network..  The presentation will begin at 6:00 p.m. ET on MLB Tonight, Friday, July 15.  The three finalists for the award will be at MLB Network’s studios for the presentation, which will feature interviews, video highlights and the announcement of the winner.  Online footage of the event also will be available via GoldenSpikesAward.com and MLB.com.

“In a year of incredible performances from players across the diamond, our voting committee felt that three pitchers stood out above the rest,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler.  “We congratulate Trevor Bauer, Danny Hultzen and Taylor Jungmann, along with their coaching staffs, teammates and their schools’ baseball programs.”

Trevor Bauer, Collegiate Baseball’s National Player of the Year, had a record breaking season in 2011.  The Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year set the conference single-season record for strikeouts with 203, eclipsing the previous record (202) set by 2001 GSA winner Mark Prior (Southern California).  Bauer went 13-2 for the Bruins, throwing 10 complete games (tied for first in UCLA single-season record history) over 136.2 innings pitched (seventh most in UCLA single-season records history).  Bauer is the first GSA finalist from UCLA since Troy Glaus in 1997.

Danny Hultzen became the first-ever three-time All-American for the Virginia Cavaliers in 2011.  The lefty has posted an 11-3 record on the mound with a 1.57 ERA, while striking out 148 batters.  His impressive stats helped him become UVa’s all-time career leader in wins (31) and strikeouts (378).  The two-time ACC Pitcher of the Year is seventh in ACC history in career strikeouts and has been named First-Team All-ACC three consecutive years.  Hultzen has also hit .336 for the season driving in 34 runs, including 10 doubles, two triples and a home run.  Prior to Hultzen, the Cavaliers’ last GSA finalist was Seth Greisinger in 1996.

Taylor Jungmann solidified himself as one of the most dominant pitchers in Texas and Big 12 history with his performance in 2011.  The junior was named Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and a First Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger.  This season he is 13-1 with a 1.40 ERA, 119 strikeouts, a .168 batting average against and five complete games in 128.1 innings pitched.  Jungmann was also named to both the Big 12 All-First Team and All-Academic First Team.  The is the first Longhorn finalist since Kyle Russell in 2007.

In 2007, USA Baseball instituted a new selection and balloting procedure for the most prestigious award in amateur baseball, and it follows the same model again in 2011.  After working closely with sports information directors and amateur baseball media across the country to determine watch lists and the top-performing athletes, a list of 30 semifinalists was sent to the GSA voting committee last week.  The three players that received the most votes advanced to the finalist round, and beginning Monday at 3:30 p.m. ET, the committee will have the opportunity to vote for the winner.

Fans will once again be able to vote for the 2011 GSA by visiting GoldenSpikesAward.com and selecting their favorite finalist.  Voting for fans and the voting body ends at 5:00 p.m. ET on Friday, June 17.

About the Golden Spikes Award
Since 1978, USA Baseball has honored the top amateur baseball player in the country with the Golden Spikes Award. Following the first ever presentation of the Award to Bob Horner of Arizona State, the Golden Spikes Award has been presented each year to the player who exhibits exceptional athletic ability and exemplary sportsmanship. The 2010 Golden Spikes Award winner was Bryce Harper of Southern Nevada. Past winners of this prestigious award include current Major League Baseball players such as Stephen Strasburg (’09), Buster Posey (’08), David Price (’07), Tim Lincecum (’06), Alex Gordon (’05), Jered Weaver (’04), Rickie Weeks (’03), Pat Burrell (‘98), J.D. Drew (’97), Mark Kotsay (’95), and Jason Varitek (’94). Former Major League stars that have captured the award include Robin Ventura (’88), Jim Abbott (’87), Will Clark (’85), Dave Magadan (’83), Terry Francona (’80), Tim Wallach (’79), and Bob Horner (’78).  For more information, please visit GoldenSpikesAward.com.

About USA Baseball
USA Baseball is the National Governing Body of amateur baseball in the United States and is a member of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).  The organization selects and trains the World Baseball Classic Team and World Cup Team (and all other USA Baseball Professional Teams); the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team; the USA Baseball 18U, 16U and 14U National Teams; and the USA Baseball Women’s National Team, all of which participate in various international competitions each year.  USA Baseball also presents the Golden Spikes Award annually to the top amateur baseball player in the country.  For more information, please visit USABaseball.com and GoldenSpikesAward.com.

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For more information on AAU Baseball visit www.aausports.org. Follow us on Twitter @RealAAUBaseball and on Facebook The Real AAU.

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