06/06/06 9:20 PM ET
Texas dips into prep ranks for Kiker
Alabama pitcher went 10-0 with an 0.19 ERA as a junior
By D.C. Reeves / MLB.com
To take his mind off the pressure, the Phenix City, Ala., native went fishing Tuesday morning, and the Texas Rangers hooked the left-handed pitcher as their No. 1 pick.
"It's a great privilage to be with a great organization like the Texas Rangers," said Kiker, who was the 12th overall selection in the draft.
Kiker, 18, didn't want to see the mock drafts. Just a little fishing, some Texas Hold 'em, then watch the real thing. Not soon enough, the call came.
"[Texas regional scout] Jeff Wood called me when the 11th pick was being picked," said Kiker. "I don't think I could have waited another pick."
Ranked as the 12th best high school player by Baseball America, Kiker was beyond dominant in his time at Russell County High School, compiling a 31-6 record with a 0.91 ERA. Russell County was ranked by many publications as the preseason No. 1 high school baseball team in the country.
"He's a warrior," said Rangers scouting director Ron Hopkins. "He brings his game face every time he gets the ball. It says a lot."
With fellow high school pitcher and Rangers interest Kyle Drabek -- son of former major leaguer Doug Drabek -- still on the board when it was the Rangers' turn, general manager John Daniels and the scouting staff had some decisions to make.
"We liked them both, we like their abilities, their makeup," Hopkins said. "When it came down to it, we picked the guy we liked a little more."
Both Hopkins and Daniels raved about Kiker's three "plus pitches" -- his fastball, changeup and curveball -- following the conclusion of the first day.
Behind the trio of pitches, Russell County's opposition did some fishing during Kiker's high school career, striking out 474 times and walking just 85 over 256 2/3 innings.
But standing at just 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, the ideal Major League size had been one of Kiker's question marks.
Luckily for the Baseball America second-team All-American, he did have one saving grace.
"I was always thankful to God I was a left-hander," Kiker said.
Kiker claimed he is "100 percent" on signing professionally and that the Rangers plan to start him at the low A level, skipping rookie ball. He had committed to play baseball at the University of South Alabama in Mobile.
The quick move up the ladder is a welcome sight for the young pitcher professionally. But the strict regimen won't leave much time for fishing.
D.C. Reeves is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.