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06/05/08 11:34 PM ET

Rays take shortstop Beckham No. 1

Tampa Bay opts for talented Georgia high school player

BOSTON -- Tim Beckham is No. 1.

The Rays, holding the first overall selection in Thursday's First-Year Player Draft, selected the talented high school shortstop from Griffin, Ga.

"This is great. I'm kind of speechless right now," Beckham said. "This is what I've been dreaming to be and this is a dream come true. I worked this hard to get to this spot and it really came through.

"I didn't want to take it to my head too much, but I was hoping and praying I was going to be the No. 1 pick. I didn't want to ... tell everybody I was the No. 1 pick when I didn't really know. It's a dream come true and it's an honor and a blessing to be with the Tampa Bay Rays."

Shortly after 2 p.m. ET, ESPN 2 cameras zoomed in on the club's table inside the Draft room at the Disney Sports Complex, where Rays senior advisor Don Zimmer sat flanked by special assistant Brian Anderson and communications manager Carmen Molina. The Tampa Bay troika appeared engaged in conversation with many fans clad in Rays attire in the background. Shortly thereafter, Commissioner Bud Selig announced Beckham's name, prompting an eruption of cheers and cowbells, a signature item from games at Tropicana Field.

The excitement spread north to Griffin, just outside Atlanta, where Beckham enjoyed the good news with family, friends, coaches and the people of Griffin, the place, he noted, he loves so much.

Rays scouting director R.J. Harrison called Beckham "a really good player at a premium position."

"[He] has a real good awareness on the field," said Harrison, who noted Beckham is a very good athlete with an advanced bat. "He plays the game with a great deal of enthusiasm. And then when you spend time with him away from the field, he's the same guy. He's a fun guy to be around."

Beckham, 18, graduated on Saturday from Griffin High School. Baseball America ranked him as the No. 1 high school prospect in the country entering the Draft. The right-handed hitter batted .482 (53-for-110) with six home runs, 13 doubles, 41 RBIs, 58 runs scored and 23 steals in his senior season, leading Griffin to the Region 4-AAAA championship and to its first state championship series since 1981.

Until the first part of the week, the Rays were considering five players, including Beckham, for the top pick, before clarity finally came to the situation.

Rays' top five selections
1.RHPTim BeckhamGriffin HS (Ga.)
47.RHPKyle LobsteinCoconino HS (Ariz.)
78.2BJacob JefferiesUC Davis
113.RHPChristopher MorrisonTigard HS (Ore.)
143.RHPMichael SheridanCol William & Mary
Complete Rays Draft results >

"It was an active debate, but I think at the end of the day when push came to shove and we were racing time, I think it was pretty clear to everybody that Tim Beckham was the guy at the top of our board," said Andrew Friedman, the Rays' executive vice president of baseball operations. "We feel like he's got an advanced approach to the game, a genuine enthusiasm for what he does, and we feel like he's got a great chance to be an impact player at the Major Leagues."

Harrison talked of how a scout can look at a ballplayer and begin to see traits and similarities to other players. And with Beckham, Harrison found some pretty flattering similarities.

"There's about five players that came to mind," said Harrison. "It was kind of a combination or a little bit of the Uptons, of course, Gary Sheffield, Orlando Hudson and Brandon Phillips. Those five guys, I felt there was a little bit of everybody from that group in this kid. ... We talk about high ceiling players all the time, this kid is already a really good player and we think that he is only going to get better."

The Rays had the No. 1 overall selection for the fourth time in their history. Beckham became the third high school player the Rays have selected with that top pick. Last year's No. 1 pick, David Price, a left-handed pitcher from Vanderbilt, was the lone exception to the prep flavor. In 1999 and 2003, the Rays used the top pick to select high school outfielders in Josh Hamilton and Delmon Young; both outfielders are now in the Major Leagues with other clubs.

Beckham stands 6-foot, 188 pounds, which lends him the physical stature to play most positions. Harrison said Beckham "absolutely" will be a shortstop in the Rays organization. A five-tool player, he is said to have the prerequisite range to remain at shortstop.

"I think I fit in good," Beckham said. "They've got a couple young minority players on the team like Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton. [Evan] Longoria, he's a real good shortstop and I hope I can at least play second base with him. If I can play shortstop, then that's a dream come true."

And if he doesn't end up a shortstop, he's fine with that, too.

"I'll do whatever they tell me to do," Beckham said. "Whatever wins a world championship and helps the team out then I'm there."

Beckham is the first No. 1 selection to be drafted out of a Georgia school since Mike Ivie (San Diego Padres) in 1970. Beckham has signed a baseball scholarship to Southern California but wants to play professional baseball.

"As quick as I can get [a deal] done, the happier I am," Beckham said. "I'm ready to play ball. I'm hoping [to be in the Major Leagues in] two to three years and I'm going to keep working hard and giving 110 percent whatever I do. Hopefully that'll be another dream true."

The Rays have participated in the Draft since 1996 and have selected the following players in the first round: Paul Wilder, 1996, OF, Cary (High School), N.C.; Jason Standridge, 1997, RHP, Hewitt Trussville (HS), Ala.; Hamilton, 1999, Athens Drive (HS), N.C.; Rocco Baldelli, 2000, OF, Bishop Hendricksen (HS), R.I.; B.J. Upton, 2002, SS, Greenbrier Christian Academy, Chesapeake, Va.; and Young, 2003, RF, Camarillo (HS), Calif.

Prior to the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, 30 players whose baseball careers encompassed the Negro Leagues, and a few lesser leagues, were selected Thursday. Participation in the Draft was voluntary, but all 30 clubs participated in this salute to those players from "black baseball." The Rays selected Walter Lee Gibbons, who pitched for the Philadelphia Stars, Indianapolis Clowns and New York Black Yankees.

Here is a look at the Rays' other Day 1 selections in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft:

Round 2: Kyle Lobstein, LHP, Coconino (HS), Ariz.
"He's got a Major League body, delivery and arm action," said Harrison, who also noted Lobstein is extremely projectable. "His stuff is good now and we feel there is more to come." A basketball player, Lobstein is athletic on the mound and has committed to the University of Arizona. Harrison said the Rays were ecstatic Lobstein was still on the board when they used the 47th pick of the Draft.

Round 3: Jacob Jefferies, C, UC Davis
Jefferies is known for being a contact hitter who rarely strikes out, but he has not shown much power. He is the nephew of Blas Minor, who pitched for Arizona State and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jefferies set a UC Davis school record with 96 hits this season while hitting .387 (96-for-248) in 58 games with four home runs and 54 RBIs.

Round 4: Christopher Morrison, CF, Tigard (HS), Oregon
Morrison was ranked the No. 179 prospect entering the Draft by Baseball America, and the No. 1 prospect in the state of Oregon. He was second-team All-State Oregon after hitting .382 (26-for-68) this season with one home run and 12 RBIs. He has committed to University of Oregon, which is bringing back its baseball program in 2009 for the first time in 28 years.

Round 5: Michael Sheridan, 1B, William & Mary
Sheridan hit .423 (96-for-227) in 56 games with 15 home runs and 72 RBIs. He ranked among the nation's Top 20 in average, hits, RBIs, runs, doubles, total bases and toughest to strike out at the end of the regular season.

Round 6: Shane Dyer, RHP, South Mountain Community College, Colorado
Dyer went 6-5 with a 3.05 ERA in 13 games and had 91 strikeouts in 73 2/3 innings. He signed with the University of Nebraska for next year. Dyer was drafted in the 24th round of the 2006 Draft by the Rockies.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.