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Minor league report: Top picks adjusting to pro baseball

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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates first round draft pick Austin Meadows watches batting practice, Friday, June 28, 2013, at PNC Park.

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By Jim Brockman
Saturday, July 20, 2013, 11:00 p.m.

BRADENTON, Fla. – Uncommon poise and maturity in a teenager generally bodes well for success later in life.

Based on that principle, the Pirates hit the mother lode with their top two draft picks in June.

Outfielder Austin Meadows, the ninth overall selection, and catcher Reese McGuire, No. 14 overall, are both a mere 18 years old.

But aside from their fresh, young faces, it's difficult to believe both were still playing high school baseball just two months ago.

Each player is in the first few weeks of his respective professional baseball career, playing for the Bradenton Pirates of the Gulf Coast League. McGuire is batting .460 with five RBI through 13 games, and Meadows is batting .154 with three RBI through 10 games.

“I really like being independent, being out on my own, just focusing on baseball,” McGuire said. “When I was in high school, it was: come home, do my homework and all the other things. I like being out here focusing on baseball.”

McGuire, who batted .436 with four home runs, 13 doubles and 20 RBI last spring for Kentwood High in Covington, Wash., appears to have already bypassed the homesickness and growing pains that can plague young players.

“As a catcher, I'm a leader on and off the field,” McGuire said. “I look forward to making that bond with the pitchers. They need to be confident in me and my abilities back there. The more confidence he has in me, the more confidence he will have in his pitching.”

Meadows approaches the game with the same healthy attitude.

“I would ultimately like to be a leader on the field, just like I always have been,” the 6-3 Meadows said. “I lead by example and just go out there and play hard every day and not take a day off. Here at the beginning of my career, I want to show the Pirates what I can do on the field, and especially off the field, as well.”

The southpaw tore up high school pitching last spring, batting .535 with four homers, 14 doubles and 28 RBI, playing for Grayson High in Loganville, Ga.

Meadows and McGuire recently attended games in Pittsburgh, where they got the opportunity to meet big-league manager Clint Hurdle and several players.

“There is excitement around the city,” McGuire said. “It's something to look forward to, and will motivate me even further.”

Each player appears ready to pay the price.

“I'm just looking forward to the opportunity to keep working hard,” Meadows said. “I'm never going to get complacent. I'm just going to have fun like I have always done in high school, just go out there and play every day and have fun.”

Jim Brockman is a freelance writer.

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