Top pick Rowell packs bat, glove and confidence

Slugging N.J. high school infielder sets 3-year time line to be an Oriole

July 07, 2006|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

One thing Billy Rowell will not lack is confidence.

That was obvious yesterday when the Orioles' first-round draft choice formally became a professional with the signing of his first contract at the warehouse at Camden Yards.

"I expect a lot of special things out of myself," Rowell said in response to a question. "You don't know what's going to happen, but three years would be good [for becoming an Oriole]."

Rowell, the ninth overall selection in last month's draft, batted .507 during his four-year career at Bishop Eustace Preparatory School in Pennsauken, N.J., including .571 as a senior. Over 106 games, he hit 35 home runs and knocked in 161 runs.

Only 17, he will inevitably draw comparisons to Cal Ripken, although he bats left-handed and will switch from shortstop - which he played primarily in high school - to third base before he even has a pro at-bat. He is built in the Ripken mold at 6 feet 5, 215 pounds.

"We think that's where the size of his body is going to take him," said Orioles director of scouting Joe Jordan. "He has plenty of range for that position and is somewhat limited in that regard at short. He's going to make his living with his bat."

"Cal Ripken is definitely someone to look up to and I want to be a complete player, too. I don't want to be mentioned just for my bat," said Rowell, who after the news conference departed for rookie ball at Bluefield, W.Va., and is expected to be in uniform tonight. "Third is probably going to be a better bet for me down the road. I'll play wherever the team needs me."

"We got the player we wanted," Jordan said. "He's athletic and we like guys who like to get out and mix it up. This is a confident kid. He'll need that. There are a lot of things to get excited about with him."

Rowell dismissed the idea that he thought of playing in college. "I focused on playing pro ball right out of high school," he said. "This was definitely my goal."

Recipient of a $2.1 million signing bonus, Rowell may be appearing at Single-A Aberdeen - whose season lasts longer than Bluefield's - before the summer ends.

"Like any 17-year-old, he's got a lot to learn," Jordan said. "But I think he's going to be a good student of the game."

kent.baker@baltsun.com

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