Berkman and Cathey sign with Astros, Joseph signs with Giants, Anderson yet to sign with Detroit
by Packy Saunders
With a College World Series trip under their belts, a
group of Owls left the amateur nest for promising careers in the professional
world. Four Rice baseball players were selected this summer in the 1997
amateur draft of Major League Baseball.
Junior Matt Anderson, a right-handed pitcher with a 99-mph fastball, was
selected as the number one overall pick in the draft by the Detroit Tigers.
Rice continued its first round showing as first baseman Lance Berkman was
selected with the No. 16 pick of the draft by the hometown Houston Astros.
Berkman completed his junior year leading all college players with 41 home runs
on the season.
Kevin Joseph, a converted junior shortstop, pitched his way into the draft with
a 93-mph fastball and excellent control. A sixth round draft pick of the San
Francisco Giants, Joseph caught the eye of scouts with "a great pitching body
and good arm action" Rice Baseball Coach Wayne Graham said.
The final Rice student selected in the draft was senior shortstop Joseph
Cathey, one of Rice's most popular players. Cathey went in one of the later
rounds to the Astros.
"We think this was the most successful group of Rice baseball players yet, "
Graham said. He noted that, in the past three years, Rice has had three first
round draft choices. Berkman and Anderson join rookie phenom José Cruz
Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays in the elite group of Rice first round draftees.
Cathey and Joseph made an immediate jump to minor league ball. Cathey, a former
walk-on, is regarded as a quality scholar as well as a quality infielder.
"Joe has always been a good student, but now this is his dream," Cathey's
mother Marilyn said from her Spring, Texas home. She told the
that Cathey is currently batting .280 for the Class A Auburn Doubledays in
the New-York Penn league.
While on the road, Cathey is reportedly keeping a journal of his experiences in
hopes of writing a book one day. Recently, he met up with another former Rice
player, Mark "Nuke" Taylor of the Watertown Indians. After getting a hit off
Taylor, Cathey joked that it was like batting practice at Rice.
Of the two Rice first rounders, Berkman is the only one to sign. He received a
signing bonus of one million dollars -- an exceptionally large one, especially
for a 16th pick. As of Monday, Berkman was leading the Kissimee Cobras with 12
home runs. He accomplished this feat in only 176 at bats over 50 games. Cobra
Assistant General Manager Kenneth Kuenzli told the
that in his
opinion Berkman will be a major league outfielder in two years. "Berkman is a
great player with an outstanding work ethic, and half of his hits are for extra
bases," Kuenzli said.
Top pick Matt Anderson, dubbed by many as the premiere pitcher in college
baseball, was the only one of the draftees available to talk directly to the
Other than a week-long trip to the Bahamas with teammate Rob Kligman,
Anderson's summer has been normal. He discussed the salary numbers offered to
him so far as if his signingx were any other type of career move. Anderson
seemed unphased by the $2.25 million signing bonus he initially turned down.
That number then swelled to an offer of $2.5 million.
Anderson's agent declined the Tiger's offer.
None of this appears to bother Anderson. Everyday he sleeps until one p.m. and
then rides his four-wheeler around his family's ranch in Kentucky. "It's tiring
work," Anderson joked.
A deal should be hammered out within the next week, Anderson said. Anderson
insisted that it is all in the hands of his agent and will not be worrisome. If
an agreement is not reached, Anderson said he will take an action consistent
with his nonchalant attitude about the sport. He may return to Rice and pitch
for his senior year.
This item appeared in the Sports section of the August 29, 1997 issue.