Nate Roberts had a feeling he was headed to the team that calls Wrigley Field home. Someday, he hopes to play at Target Field.
This summer, one of the first steps on his journey to become a professional baseball player could be at Pohlman Field in Beloit, Wis., less than an hour from his alma mater, Richmond-Burton High School.
The Minnesota Twins selected Roberts in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday. The selection came one year after he was chosen in the 48th round of the 2009 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays.
“I’m a pretty relaxed guy, but this is exciting,” said Roberts, who earned Big South Conference Player of the Year honors this spring as a junior at NCAA Division I High Point (N.C) University.
“I’m pretty happy. To be drafted in the top five rounds is definitely an accomplishment. ... I wasn’t even watching [the draft]. My buddies from school called me and told me about it.”
Roberts was the 165th player chosen after a season in which he led the nation with 88 runs scored and a .572 on-base percentage. Roberts led the conference with a .416 batting average while compiling 19 homers, 65 RBIs, 36 stolen bases and 53 walks.
“He’s the closest thing to a five-tool player that any of us has ever coached,” High Point head coach Craig Cozart said. “Nate got exactly what he wanted from coming to High Point University, and we got a tremendous year out of him. This is a credit to Nate and his work ethic. Nate got what he deserved.”
Roberts said two teams stood out in recent weeks because of their interest – the Twins and Cubs.
“I thought it was going to be the Cubs or the Twins who drafted me,” Roberts said. “The Twins were the team I was hoping I would get drafted by.”
Roberts said he made a solid connection with Ricky Taylor, the Twins’ area scout in North Carolina, during the college season.
However, Roberts recently went to Arizona to work out for the Cubs and played in an extended spring training game.
“They said they really liked me,” said Roberts, a lifelong Cubs fan.
The Twins, who opened the new Target Field in downtown Minneapolis this season, stood out because of their reputation for developing young players.
“A lot of guys [in the majors] have been through the organization,” Roberts said.
One of the first stops in the Twins’ farm system is Beloit, home to the club’s Class A Midwest League team.
“That would be nice to be close to home,” said Roberts, who was drafted last year by the Rays after an All-American season at Parkland College in Champaign.
Although he does not yet have an agent, Roberts expects to keep contract negotiations to a minimum and get on the field right away.
“I want this to get done as quickly as possible,” Roberts said. “This is an early step in the process of hopefully becoming a Major League Baseball player.”
Cubs draft Dundee-Crown grad in 15th round: Dundee-Crown grad Elliot Soto, a shortstop at D-I Creighton University, was drafted Tuesday by the Cubs in the 15th round as the 460th player overall.
As a junior this spring, Soto earned second-team All-Missouri Valley Conference honors after hitting .297 with a career-best 28 RBIs.
After his senior season at D-C in 2007, Soto was drafted in the 13th round by the Twins but chose not to sign.
South grad Wilson drafted by Giants: Crystal Lake South grad Kyle Wilson, a senior infielder-outfielder at North Carolina State, was selected in the 24th round (No. 738 overall) by the San Francisco Giants. Wilson was second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference this season after hitting .368 with a .498 on-base percentage.