June 6, 2013 9:20:40 PM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State University junior outfielder Hunter Renfroe has experienced what he calls the "surreal moment" of being a first round pick in the MLB Draft.
Renfroe was selected 13th overall Thursday night by the San Diego Padres and becomes the 12th player in MSU history to be taken in the first round of the professional baseball draft.
"It's pure elation for me and my family," Renfroe said. "It's just such a surreal feeling to hear your name called and realize you're a first round draft pick in professional baseball."
Renfroe's selection by the Padres marks back to back first round picks for the MSU program after 2012 Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year Chris Stratton was taken 20th overall by the San Francisco Giants.
"I had my girlfriend, my parents, my grandparents and a lot of friends around me (in Charlottesville) when I was drafted," Renfroe said. "I was so happy to be able to share this experience with so many different people I care deeply about. It was a wonderful thing to have them around."
After struggling to find discipline at the plate in his first two seasons at MSU, Renfroe finished the 2013 regular season as the SEC's leader with 15 home runs also sports the league's second best .634 slugging percentage and also ranks among the SEC leaders in batting average (.352), on-base percentage (.440), RBIs (58), hits (80), runs scored (51) and total bases (144). Renfroe was first-team All-America selection by Louisville Slugger and first-team All-SEC by the coaches this season.
"I had a feeling it would be San Diego and the more and more I started thinking about it, the more and more I got excited about playing in their organization and being a Padre one day," Renfroe said in a phone interview Thursday night.
The MSU junior outfielder was also a semifinalist for both USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award and the NCBWA's Dick Howser Trophy, given to the nation's top collegiate player. Renfroe was the first SEC player to be taken in the 2013 MLB draft Thursday night, which was broadcasted live on MLB Network.
Renfroe gained confidence in his power with the wood bat with consecutive summers in the Cal Ripken League, where he hit a league-record 19 home runs last summer, prompting the Bethesda (Md.) Big Train to retire his jersey. Renfroe hit .364 with Bethesda last summer with 57 RBI while being named by Perfect Game scouting as the top prospect in the Cal Ripken League.
"That's the thing I really think I'm going to enjoy the most about professional baseball," Renfroe said. "The bats we use right now are junk. They just are. The ball doesn't carry off of them and the balls are as tightly wound as they are in summer ball and in minor leagues. I'll be able to translate the power immediately if not better with the wood at the next level."
By all scouts prospectives, Renfroe is the prototypical five-tool player that can run, hit, hit for power, defend his position and throw with power from the outfield. He is no longer projectable as a project but in 2013 Renfroe, who will be represented in contract negotiations by Bo McKinnis, is being projected by scouts as a player that could see an early opportunity to progress quickly through a organization's minor league system.
"I told our people a while ago that after I gave him an easy first round grade, if they still wanted reports on him," a National League scout said over the phone last month. "When they asked me why I would ask that, I responded with 'because we don't have a first round pick high enough to get him'."
With the MLB Draft being a three-day event that includes the first round being live at 6 p.m. on The MLB Network, Renfroe and his MSU coaches believe being picked tonight before the Super Regional series starts in Virginia could be the best thing that could happen to him and his draft eligible teammates. The first two rounds of the MLB draft are Thursday night and rounds 3-10 will be Friday. The final 29 rounds (11-40) will be conducted Saturday.
"It feels better to get the draft out of the way," Renfroe said. "I can now focus on Virginia and the goal of getting to Omaha because that's my whole goal. There's no worrying about the Padres right now and I can just relax now that this is all over."
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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