Four Catamounts join the professional ranks after Major League draft day
By DANIEL HOOKER ’01
Four Western Carolina Catamount baseball players taken in the 2009 Major League Baseball first-year player draft have signed with the MLB clubs and began reporting for summer training and rookie-league play in late June. Currently, WCU has two players in the majors, and nine playing at varying stages in the minor league system, including the four newest members.
Junior Nick Liles was taken in the seventh round of the ’09 draft with the 207th pick by the San Francisco Giants, making him Western Carolina’s highest draft pick since Eric Johnson ’04 was selected in the third round of the 1999 draft with the 107th overall pick. Liles, who began his career with Arizona League Giants of MLB’s rookie ball, played second and third base and in the outfield during his time at WCU.
Junior left-handed pitcher Chris Masters was drafted in the 11th round with the 328th pick by the Atlanta Braves, becoming the fifth Catamount baseball player drafted by Atlanta. Masters has signed and reported to camp, bypassing the lower rookie rung of the Gulf Coast Braves to join the upper-division rookie league squad in Danville, Va. He is joined on the Danville Braves by former SoCon competitors Matt Crim (left-handed pitcher from The Citadel) and Cory Harrilchak (outfielder from Elon).
After being selected in the 14th round with the 426th pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks, junior infielder Brent Greer reported to the Yakima (Wash.) Bears of the short-season Class A Northwest League. Greer is just the second Catamount player ever selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks, joining former WCU standout Todd Buchanan ’03, who was taken in the 13th round of the 2003 draft. Greer was named Northwest League Hitter of the Week in early July after hitting his first four professional home runs – including three in one game – in a road game at Everett, Wash.
Corey Martin, the lone WCU senior selected this year, has signed with the Chicago Cubs, who drafted him in the 27th round with the 830th overall pick. Martin reported to Mesa, Ariz., home of the Cubs’ spring training, for summer workouts and conditioning. He faced fellow former Catamount Liles in the first league game for both players, getting Liles to ground out in the sixth inning. He was moved up in late June to Chicago’s short-season-affiliate in Boise, Idaho. A Yadkinville native who was a North Carolina Teaching Fellow, he plans to finish work on his degree and do his required student teaching this upcoming fall.
“I am extremely proud of these young men in their accomplishment of being drafted,” said WCU Head Coach Bobby Moranda, who guided the Catamounts to a 35-22 record this past season. “It is a testament to how hard these guys have worked and also to how our solid baseball program at Western Carolina is developing student-athletes.”