SWAC, MEAC Players Of The Year Among 10 HBCU Players Tabbed In MLB Draft

By Off The BASN Sports Wire
Updated: June 19, 2007

MLB LogoNEW YORK — The 2007 Players of The Year in both the SWAC and the MEAC were among the ten black college players taken in last week’s 2007 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, but it was a pitcher from Southern University that was the first to go off the boards.

Baron Short of Southern was the first black college player taken, going to the Los Angeles Angels with the 238th overall pick, in the seventh round. Short, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound right-hander, started just five games and made 12 appearances for the Jags. He was the first of three Southern pitchers to be drafted.

Roydrick Merritt, the ace of the Jaguars staff, was drafted in the 29th round with pick No. 903 to the New York Mets. Merritt was 7-1 with a 2.91 earned-run average, 52 strikeouts and six complete games in 12 starts.

The other Jag hurler, Jeffery McCollum, went to the Washington Nationals with pick No. 998 in the 33rd round. He was 4-1 for the Jags this season with two saves.

The Prairie View A&M Panthers, after winning back-to-back SWAC titles and making their second appearance in the NCAA Baseball Championship, continued to have success with the selection of two players in the draft.

Shortstop Michael Richard, the SWAC’s player of the year and outstanding hitter, was the second black college player to be selected, going to the Oakland Athletics in the 11th round of the draft, while outfielder Calvin Lester was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 36th round.

Richard ranked in five NCAA Division I statistical categories. The 5-foot-11 senior from Lake Charles, La., was sixth in stolen bases (0.72 pg.), 34th in batting (.402), 53rd in runs (1.09 pg.), and 24th in walks (0.79 pg.).

His .402 average topped the SWAC as did his 42 steals in 50 attempts. He finished third in the SWAC in runs scored (63) and second in doubles (20) and hits (78).

Lester, a 6-foot-1 senior from Miami, Fla. was named most outstanding player at the 2007 SWAC Baseball Championship. He batted .462 (six-for-14) for the tournament, had four stolen bases, four runs and three RBIs. Last year Lester was named first team all-SWAC and to the SWAC Western Division team. In 2006, he led the nation with 56 stolen bases per game.

“I’m very excited for these two young men,” said Prairie View head coach Michael Robertson. “They have been a large part of the success we had the past two seasons. They have helped to put our program on the map.”

“I can only hope that each organization will put these young men in the right situation and give them an opportunity to develop into Major League ball players. I am proud to have played a small part in each of their lives.”

Jackson State centerfielder James Sims was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 27th round Friday. Sims is a 6-foot, 200-pound junior from Houston, Mississippi.

He finished the 2007 season with a .322 batting average, with 68 hits, five home runs, and 40 RBIs for the Tigers and was named SWAC Newcomer of the Year.

MEAC Player of the Year, senior Charlie Gamble of North Carolina A&T and Bethune-Cookman senior outfielder Angel Mercado were both drafted in the 23rd round.

Gamble was selected as the 711th pick by the Houston Astros. He led the MEAC in batting (.409), home runs (10), hits (92), slugging percentage (.653) and total bases (147).

He was second in the league in doubles (19) and RBI (57). Gamble also broke the school’s single-season hits record for the second time in his career. He owns a total of nine school records.

It was the second straight year that an Aggie was selected. The Colorado Rockies picked Jeremy Jones last year in the 25th round. In 2004, Duron LaGrande was selected in the 10th round by Montreal.

The San Diego Padres selected Mercado with the 717th overall pick. He is the first player drafted from Bethune-Cookman since 2004 when Sebastien Boucher (Seattle Mariners), Juan Figueroa (Florida Marlins) and Mumba Rivera (Seattle Mariners) were selected.

Mercado led Bethune-Cookman and was second in the MEAC with a .404 batting average. He was also in the top five in the league in several other categories including On Base Percentage (4th), Slugging Percentage (2nd), Runs Scored (t-5th), Hits (2nd) and Homeruns (t-3rd).

Mercado becomes the second player from Bethune-Cookman to become a member of the San Diego Padres organization in as many years. Last year, Richard Rodriguez signed a free agency contract with the Padres, and is currently a member of their AA team (Eugene Emeralds).

Norfolk State first baseman Ernie Banks was selected by the Florida Marlins in the 44th round. Banks (6-feet-4, 220 pounds) becomes the first Spartan baseball player drafted since current NSU head coach Claudell Clark was picked in the 28th round of the 2001 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Overall, Banks is the 20th Spartan to be drafted by MLB.

Banks, who just completed his junior season, is a two-time All-MEAC first team selection (2006 and 2007) and a two-time MEAC All-Tournament Team pick (2005 and 2007).

This past season, he batted .363 with 13 doubles, two triples, two homers and 34 RBI. He also drew a team-leading 34 walks, and ranked second in the MEAC with a .475 on-base percentage. He also tied for seventh in the conference in batting.

Through three years as a Spartan, Banks batted .357 with 33 doubles, seven triples, four home runs and 80 RBI in 137 games, 135 of them starts. Being a rising senior, Banks has the option of signing with Florida or returning to NSU for his senior season and re-entering the draft in 2008.

The final black college player selected was Texas Southern junior outfielder Lindon Bond who went to Arizona in the 50th and final round. Bond hit .265 for the Tigers.