Local Players Selected In MLB Draft

By Jeff Johnson, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS - You never want to look ahead as a professional baseball player. Especially when you're in the minor leagues.

You've got to prove yourself every day just to keep your job, let alone move up the proverbial ladder.

But excuse Chad Christensen if he allowed himself to peak into the future a wee bit Saturday afternoon. The University of Nebraska senior and former Cedar Rapids Washington all-stater was taken by the Minnesota Twins in the 26th round of Major League Baseball's amateur draft.

Christensen will sign a contract and head to Fort Myers, Fla., Monday for camp. Then he'll be assigned somewhere in the Twins system, most likely either Rookie-level Elizabethton of the Appalachian League or the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Twins in Fort Myers, whose seasons begin in mid-June.

If he does well this summer, he very well could begin next season with the Twins' low-Class A team. That's the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

"I am so pumped right now," Christensen said. "I was nervous the whole day, but now I'm just so excited. I get to live my dream."

Christensen was a four-year letterwinner for the Cornhuskers who has experience playing infield and outfielder. He was a first-team all-Big Ten Conference shortstop in 2012, but the Twins listed him as an outfielder after drafting him Saturday.

"I think I'll be kind of a utility guy," Christensen said.

The Florida Marlins drafted him last year in the 35th round, but he declined to sign and ended up graduating from Nebraska in May. A bachelor's degree in finance in hand, Christensen now gets his opportunity to play professional baseball.

And if all goes well, he'll get to do it at home some day. The last local player to play for the Kernels was Alex Dvorsky in 2003, who prepped at Marion and was drafted by the then parent club Angels out of Northern Iowa.

"A year ago, I was disappointed," he said. "But now I'm so excited to get drafted and get started with my career."

A trio of pitchers who prepped in the Metro were selected Saturday in Major League Baseball's amateur draft, including a former high-school teammate of Christensen's.

Former Cedar Rapids Washington right-hander Dakota Freese was taken in the 12th round by the Oakland Athletics. Freese pitched this past season at Des Moines Area Community College and previously was a 34th-round pick of the Chicago White Sox in 2011.

Another former Metro prep drafted for the second time is Jon Keller. The University of Tampa junior right-hander, a Cedar Rapids Xavier grad, went to the Baltimore Orioles in the 22nd round. Keller transferred to Division II Tampa this year after spending two years at Nebraska.

He was drafted out of high school in 2010 by the Seattle Mariners in the 11th round but did not sign.

Former Linn-Mar prep Andrew Hanse went one pick ahead of Keller in the 22nd round (668th overall) to the Tampa Bay Rays. Hanse was a closer for the Iowa Hawkeyes tlhis season.

The first Iowan drafted was catcher Spencer Navin, a former West Des Moines Dowling prep who is a junior at Vanderbilt. He went to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 11th round.

Former DMAC pitcher Brandon Peterson went to the Minnesota Twins in the 13th round. He's a junior at Wichita State.

Iowa pitcher Matt Dermody, a lefty, was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 28th round.

Muscatine High School senior Derek Burkamper was taken in the 20th round by the Boston Red Sox, though he has said multiple times on Twitter this weekend that he will play college baseball at Nebraska instead of turning pro. The same fate is surely awaiting Cedar Rapids Washington senior pitcher A.J. Puk, who had not been drafted through 22 rounds and will head to the University of Florida.
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