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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Drafting on the diamond

Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Kurt Heyer throws against Oregon

Three years ago, juniors Kurt Heyer, Alex Mejia, Seth Mejias-Brean, Joey Rickard, and Robert Refsnyder came to Arizona as freshmen with the task of rebuilding an Arizona baseball program that almost lost its head coach, following a “toxic team and a toxic season,” as head coach Andy Lopez put it.

Now, after leading Arizona to its third super regional appearance in program history and its first as host, the quintet of super star juniors may leave together as well.

Tuesday, all five were selected in the Major League Baseball Draft. The St. Louis Cardinals selected Mejia, the Pac-12 Player of the Year and current finalist for the Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year award, with the 150th overall selection in the fourth round.

“I got a call from a scout and didn’t know what was going on,” Mejia said. “I’m excited to have been a part of this draft. Anywhere I went, I would have been happy.”

The Cardinals did not wait much longer to select another Wildcat, Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Kurt Heyer, with the 210th pick in the sixth round. Heyer led the Pac-12 with an 11-2 regular season record and 2.03 ERA entering the postseason.

“I think it’s an honor,” Heyer said. “I’m really happy. Hopefully, I get to room with Mejia again. We’ll just see what happens.”

The New York Yankees pounced on outfielder Refsnyder in the fifth round, taking him with the 187th selection. Refsnyder, who leads the team in home runs with six, and has a .353 batting average, may make a position switch from the outfield to infield, depending on what the Yankees see from him if he decides to leave school.

“[Refsnyder] played at second base his freshman year here, about 10 games,” Lopez said. “He was an infielder in high school, so it’s not a stretch. When organizations called me about a month ago, I said ‘That’s something he can do. He just needs the reps.’”

If he chooses to sign with the Yankees, Refsnyder said the work ethic of players such as veteran Yankees and probable Hall of Famers Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira is one thing he hopes rubs off on him.

“Getting drafted by the Yankees, they have such a culture and tradition,” Refsnyder said. “I’m honored and blessed to be chosen. I wear number two because of Derek Jeter.”

The Cincinnati Reds and Tampa Bay Rays took third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean and outfielder Joey Rickard in the eighth and ninth rounds, respectively. Rickard was taking fly balls in practice when the Rays called. Following a brief conversation, Rickard returned to practice. Minutes later, it was the media who broke the news to Rickard.

“I didn’t even know,” Rickard said. “I just found out about 30 seconds ago. I’m in a win-win situation, so there’s not too much to be worried about. I know that sounds like I’m not worried about anything, but that’s just how I went about it.”

Lopez has high hopes for all of his juniors, citing their collective heart as the determining factor that will separate them from more highly touted players.

“Like all things in athletics, you can’t measure heart,” Lopez said. “I’ll miss them a lot when it’s all said and done. They’re a special group. They’ve been unbelievably good in terms of baseball, but also unbelievably good in terms of leadership and classroom.”

The Wildcats are just two wins away from an appearance in the College World Series, which would be their first since 2004. Arizona (41-17) will face St. John’s this weekend in a best-of-three series.

“Who knows, maybe some of them will come back, but I don’t have a very good track record of keeping juniors,” Lopez said.

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