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June 7, 2007The juniors and seniors on the North Carolina baseball team will momentarily shift their focus from the super regional and the games against South Carolina that begin on Friday to today's Major League Baseball draft.
The professional and financial futures for several of them will depend on the outcome of this draft because they will soon have the opportunity to get paid for playing a game they dearly love.
Junior shortstop Josh Horton, junior relief pitcher Andrew Carignan and red-shirt sophomore pitcher Luke Putkonen all have a shot at being drafted in the first few rounds.
Others, such as pitcher Rob Woodard and outfielder Reid Fronk stand to go somewhere in this draft.
"It is a big day, but there is not really much I can do," said Carignan, a hard-throwing right-handed closer. "I've done my part and now it is kind of out of my hands. We'll see what happens.
"[Going in] the first couple of rounds is the best situation, but I don't really know," Carignan said. "I haven't been told. It is just what I hope and what I dream for. Obviously, I have to pay attention to it, but there is not too much to concentrate on."
The draft will be televised on ESPN2, beginning at 2 p.m.
Carignan was not drafted coming out of high school.
"That was the hope of coming down here and playing in a program like this," Carignan said. "I put myself out there and in this situation."
Horton could well be the first of the three selected. He's an outstanding left-handed hitter who can put the ball in play off good pitches and those out of the strike zone. He is also an excellent athlete who runs well. He could play several different positions.
And no one on this team loves playing the game anymore than Horton does, and now he faces the prospect of having someone pay him a substantial amount of money to do it.
"It's kind of surreal," Horton said.
Coach Mike Fox and the players all insist they do not know exactly how high any of the players on the roster will be chosen in the draft.
"You really don't have any clue until your name pops up," Horton said. "I'm just looking forward to it."
Carignan feels similarly to Horton about the idea of getting paid to play.
"It's almost like it is not fair, doing what I love every day and having people pay me for it," Carignan said. "I'll take it."
Each player will gather with family members and watch the draft and wait for that special phone call from a major-league club.
"My dad is flying down here," Carignan said. "I'm going to go to his hotel room and see what transpires."
If this all doesn't turn out the way he hopes, Carignan said that he does have another option, one that he will take if needed.
"If I don't think I'm treated fairly, I will come back and work on another year toward my degree," Carignan said. "All my best friends are here. It's a win-win situation for me. It doesn't work out in the draft like I want it to and I come back here, I don't have any problem with that at all."