Cool: With baseball, south Charlotte feels the draft

by C. Jemal Horton, Aaron Garcia and Andrew Stark

For years now, south Charlotte has been lauded for its wealth of young baseball talent. And on June 5, there was perhaps the greatest confirmation yet of that notion, as four players from south Charlotte schools were selected in Major League Baseball’s Amateur Draft.

Former Providence High star Richie Shaffer, a junior at Clemson Universtiy, was chosen in the first round (25th overall) by the Tampa Bay Rays.

Ex-Charlotte Christian standout Luke Bard, who spent three seasons at Georgia Tech, was taken with the 42nd overall pick by the Minnesota Twins.

Alex Wood, who played at both Providence and Ardrey Kell before joining the University of Georgia program, was drafted with the 85th pick by the Atlanta Braves.

And Providence senior Ty Buttrey was drafted in the fourth round (151st overall) by the Boston Red Sox.

Providence coach Danny Hignight said it was a great day for baseball in the area.

“It’s awesome. I’m very excited for the young men,” Hignight said. “To have Richie, Ty and even Alex drafted is special for our school and for the (Southwestern 4A conferene). All three players are great kids, come from great families, and it is a special day for all of them.”

Hignight shared the moment with Shaffer, who is a power-hitting third baseman. This spring at Georgia, the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder batted .336 with 10 home runs and 46 RBIs. He’s also in rare company, as the Rays have only selected one other third baseman in the first round: perennial all-star Evan Longoria.
Shaffer and Buttrey are the latest in a long line of Panther draftees.

“I was with Richie when his name was called, and he was oblivious to everything around him and just dialed in on the TV,” Hignight said. “Ty was at home when Boston contacted him.

“We are at a special place here (at Providence) to have (David) Mailman, Brett (Austin), Ty and Richie – who was drafted by the Dodgers out of high school – to come through here is really cool.”

Bard, a pitcher, also comes from a program with a history of having players drafted. His older brother, Daniel, is a former first-round pick who also played at Charlotte Christian. Daniel Bard currently is in the Boston Red Sox organization, having been moved to the Triple-A ranks this week.

One of Luke Bard’s former teammates, Ty Linton, was chosen by the Arizona Diamondbacks two years ago.

“With two first-rounders, I’m just glad we won when they were here, or I’d be unemployed,” Christian coach Greg Simmons said with a laugh.

Simmons believes Bard would’ve been drafted higher than the 42nd slot had he been healthy throughout the season. However, Bard hasn’t been on the mound since March after tearing a muscle in his chest. Before the injury, he posted a 0.99 ERA this spring.

In addition to his brother and Linton, Bard joins other ex-Christian stars such as Michael Grant, Paul Bennett, Reid Fronk and Chris Correll as draftees.

“It just solidifies the talent that comes through our school,” Simmons said. “But I also think Luke is such a great kid that it shows what great kids we have here, too. Luke’s an awesome human being. We’re all proud of him.”

Wood was a redshirt sophomore pitcher at Georgia this spring. He was 7-3 with a 2.73 ERA and was named to the Southeastern Conference second team.

As a senior at Ardrey Kell in 2009, Wood helped lead the Knights to the Class 4A state title by going 10-2 on the mound with a 0.87 ERA and batting .410.

According to Hal Bagwell, Wood’s former coach at Ardrey Kell, the left-hander stands 6 foot 4 and possesses a fastball that touches 96 miles per hour.

“There aren’t too many lefties out there that can do that,” said Bagwell, who added that Wood has the mental makeup to excel at the next level, as exhibited by his ability to battle through Tommy John surgery as a freshman at Georgia.

“That’s a quality a lot of good players don’t have, and that will be what separates him,” Bagwell said. “If Alex stays healthy and gets a break or two, he’ll be in the big leagues. I really believe that.”

In 2010, Ardrey Kell’s Jack Reinheimer was drafted in the 31st round by Atlanta.

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