ORIOLES SELECT HOBGOOD 5TH

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In three consecutive days, Matt Hobgood won a national baseball award, attended his high school's spring sports banquet and was selected fifth overall by the Orioles in Tuesday's amateur draft.

"If you'd sit me down and asked how to plan out the week, I don't think you could plan it out any better than that," said Hobgood, a hard-throwing right-hander from Southern California who became just the second high school pitcher in two decades to be selected by the Orioles with their first pick.

Hobgood, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound player who can reach 95 mph with his fastball and commands three other pitches, went 11-1 with a 0.92 ERA at Norco High in suburban Los Angeles.

He struck out 101 and walked 26 in 68 1/3 innings while hitting 21 homers and batting .475 as a first baseman - numbers that landed him the Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year award Sunday.

"I go after people; I think I am a bulldog," Hobgood said. "I'm not really afraid of anybody."

Hobgood was listed as the 18th-best right-handed pitcher available in the draft by Baseball America but had risen in various mock drafts in the past few days. Orioles amateur scouting director Joe Jordan scouted Hobgood three times, and the righty worked out at Camden Yards on Saturday.

Jordan said it doesn't bother him that Hobgood wasn't rated highly by others.

"We don't care," Jordan said. "I am not trying to be arrogant. We worked really hard, and I think our process is sound. This is the guy we decided to take, and we feel really good about it."

The Orioles contacted Hobgood's agent an hour before Tuesday's draft and said if University of North Carolina first baseman Dustin Ackley was already taken, then the Orioles would select Hobgood fifth.

Ackley went to the Seattle Mariners at No. 2, one pick after the Washington Nationals took ballyhooed San Diego State right-hander Stephen Strasburg. The Orioles' next two rated players, Hobgood and Georgia high school right-hander Zack Wheeler, were still on the board at No. 5.

"It was a tough one," Jordan said. "In the end, there was something that told me to do this. I really liked the other player, but I settled on the one I guess I liked a little bit more."

Along with a bulldog mentality and large frame, Hobgood, 18, is considered exceptionally mature. His father, Rick, died of cancer when Hobgood was 13. With four sisters, including three younger ones, he was forced to become the man of the house.

"It kind of made me grow up a little sooner than guys that age have to," he said. "That's life. It's not always fair. You have to face adversity sometimes, and it is not always easy."

Hobgood played baseball, football and basketball as a high school freshman but dropped football after one year and then quit basketball in his sophomore year after breaking his ankle.

This winter, Hobgood said he weighed between 260 and 265 pounds and was told he needed to get in better shape to improve his draft standing. He worked out, ran and built himself into a physical specimen.

"He is an athletic, cut, big guy," Jordan said. "It's a good body."

Jordan and Hobgood believe an agreement can be reached well before the Aug. 17 deadline. Hobgood has a scholarship to Cal State Fullerton but expects to be in the Orioles' organization soon.

"I'm ready to sign, though nothing is final yet in terms of money. We haven't talked about that; we'll talk about that in the next couple of days," Hobgood said. "Basically, I just love playing the game."

In the second round, the Orioles chose high school shortstop Mychal Givens from Tampa, Fla.

The Orioles selected Florida International first baseman-outfielder Tyler Townsend in the third round. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound prospect is from Lewes, Del.

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