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Seven local players taken on final day of MLB draft

| Thursday, June 9, 2011

As a fifth-year senior, Pitt catcher Kevan Smith held no leverage to negotiate in the MLB draft.

So when the Chicago White Sox took him in the seventh round, the all-Big East slugger expected a token signing bonus.

"I was ready to sign for $1,000 and a plane ticket," he said. "They ended up giving me $60,000."

It was a good day for Pitt baseball players all the way around.

Four Panthers were picked Wednesday as the first-year player draft ended.

Four seniors — first baseman David Chester (33rd round, Boston), outfielder John Schultz (34th round, Florida), second baseman Travis Whitmore (35th round, San Diego) and pitcher Corey Baker (49th round, St. Louis) — combined with seventh-rounders Smith and junior pitcher Ray Black to give Pitt a school-record six players selected.

The previous high for Pitt was three, which happened four times, most recently in 2010. A record 40 Big East players went in the three-day, 50-round draft.

"I was getting real nervous for a while," said the 6-foot-5, 270-pound Chester, a Tulsa, Okla., native who hit a Big East-leading 16 home runs. "I was thinking I might not get my chance. I was hoping for that call, and I finally got it."

Pine-Richland shortstop Zac LaNeve, a North Carolina recruit, went in the 44th round to the Florida Marlins, and Seneca Valley second baseman Jack Graham went in the 50th round — pick No. 1521 out of 1530 — to the Chicago White Sox. Former Seneca Valley star and Liberty (Va.) infielder Tyler Bream, son of former Pirates first baseman Sid Bream, was a 42nd-round pick of the Diamondbacks.

"I'm kind of leaning toward school," LaNeve said. "I've got a good situation at North Carolina, and it would be pretty tough to pass up."

Schultz, who hit .341 for Pitt, will sign with the Marlins and report to rookie ball in Florida. He was overlooked coming out of Wilson High School.

"I know baseball will end someday," he said. "I think going in with that mindset will help me. I will give my best shot, whether I have a one-year career or 10 years."

The 6-3, 240-pound Smith, who hit a team-high .397 this season, has room to grow after spending his first three years on the Pitt football team. The former Seneca Valley star said White Sox reps are coming Friday to finalize a deal, at which point he will report to rookie ball at Great Falls, Mont., or Bristol, Va.

"Technically, I feel like I'm a sophomore," Smith said. "That's why a lot of teams were interested in me. They saw how much I've improved, and my upside and untapped ability."

The draft wasn't all positive for Pitt. Panthers recruit Justin Bianco, a star outfielder at Peters Township High School, is expected to sign with the Diamondbacks as a third-round pick.

Panthers manager Joe Jordano said losing recruits to the draft is bittersweet, but it reflects well on a rising Pitt baseball program.

"When you are attracting that type of player," he said, "you are in the right living room."

Additional Information:

Local flavor

Here is a list of the local players taken during the final day of the Major League Baseball first-year player draft:

Round 33: David Chester, 1B, Pitt ? Boston

34: John Schultz, LF, Pitt ? Florida

35: Travis Whitmore, 2B, Pitt ? San Diego

42: Tyler Bream, 3B, Seneca Valley/Liberty ? Arizona

44: Matt LaNeve, SS, Pine-Richland • Florida

49: Corey Baker, RHP, Pitt St. Louis

50: Jack Graham, 2B, Seneca Valley ? Chicago White Sox

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