Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2003
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The Natchez Democrat
NATCHEZ &045; Like any other day, Keith Rayborn was spending time on his misslousports.com bulletin board Wednesday, throwing his two cents in to the water cooler topics throughout the morning when he let everybody know the good news in on simple sentence.
&uot;Christopher was just drafted in the 34th round by the San Diego Padres.&uot;
With that, the flood of instant messages Keith and his son Christopher Rayborn, former AC and current Meridian Community College pitcher, received nearly crashed the computer.
Minutes later Christopher Rayborn was receiving congratulatory calls from Padres’ scout Bob Filotei, Meridian coach Mike Federico and Eagle teammate Van Pope, who himself was drafted Wednesday in the 28th round by the Chicago White Sox.
&uot;This feels great and it’s, of course, an honor,&uot; said Rayborn, who was 10-3 on a team that finished fifth at the Junior College World Series this season. &uot;It’s something I’ve always dreamed of and now it’s finally happened.&uot;
Rayborn, a 6-3, 200-pound product, expected to hear his name called, but did not know exactly when.
In all Meridian had six players drafted and one high school signee. Pope and 6-5 southpaw Matthew Creighton were the first Eagles off the board, each in the 28th round to the Chicago White Sox and Pittsburgh, respectively.
&uot;We started one sophomore this year and finished fifth in the nation,&uot; Rayborn said. &uot;We only have to fill one spot, so we’ll be ready to go next year.&uot;
Rayborn will be a &uot;draft-and-follow&uot; pick for San Diego, which means the Padres have the exclusive rights to offer him a contract until next Spring’s draft.
After the year is up, the player is free to re-enter the draft independently.
&uot;He’s going to come down after the draft and talk to me and my parents,&uot; Rayborn said of Filotei. &uot;The way he’s talking, I’m pretty confident they’re going to offer me something.&uot;
Federico believes Rayborn’s lanky frame and work ethic are key qualities that attracted several other teams, not including San Diego, to the right-hander.
Rayborn’s money pitch is the fastball, but Federico has been impressed with the way he has developed a slider and changeup this year.
&uot;He was able to mop up a lot of innings this past year and pitch in some really big games for us,&uot; he said. &uot;Christopher got better every outing and he continues to work hard even on those days where he didn’t pitch. He’d study others or be hard at it in the weight room.&uot;
Former Centreville Academy star and current Ole Miss second baseman Matt Tolbert was drafted in the 19th round by the Orioles late Tuesday.
Tolbert, who played second and batted .302 with a team-high four triples this past year for the Rebels, was halfway home to Woodville on a long drive from Oxford, when he got the call from Rebel assistant coach Dan McDonald that Baltimore had just chosen him in the 19th round.
&uot;That woke me up. I stepped on the gas, and didn’t let it go under 90,&uot; Tolbert jokingly said. &uot;It’s one of the biggest thrills of my life. It’s awesome to know somebody is watching your career that closely.&uot;
Unlike Rayborn’s situation, Tolbert elected not to go the draft-and-follow route, and will return for his senior year at Ole Miss.
A career .288 hitter, Tolbert said he feels as though the Rebels have a bit of unfinished business after getting dismissed from the Houston Regional by Wichita State late Saturday.
&uot;It’s a dream to play at the next level, but I love college baseball. I’ve decided to stay and play my last year because making it to the regional just wasn’t satisfying enough. I want to make it to Omaha.&uot;
Before then, he celebrated being one of the few, the proud draftees with his family and Woodville supporters. He heads then head off to the Cape Cod League Saturday, where he’ll play for the Bourn Braves.
Tolbert played in 14 games for the Braves last summer before someone slid into his knee on a play at second and sidelined him the next few months.
Christopher Rayborn said in a way he is happy that an organization that has been mired in a slump since legend Tony Gwynn left two years ago selected him.
&uot;I’m glad I got drafted by a team&uot; that is struggling with a National League worst 17-42 record currently, Rayborn said. &uot;Hopefully, that makes it easier for me to move up. I know I’ll have to hit again being in the National League.&uot;
The last time Rayborn dug his spikes between the white lines that outline the batter’s box was last years as a senior at AC.
&uot;I was a pretty good hitter,&uot; Rayborn said, then quickly adding, &uot;but I probably can’t hit against pro pitching, especially with a wooden bat.&uot;
Rayborn knows what to do next season to improve his stock for the Padres and began the, sometimes treacherous, climb through the minor leagues.
For now he’ll continued to humbly take the compliments on his father’s Web site and dream about the show.
&uot;It’s kind of sunk in, but I guess it won’t feel any differently until I’m actually there,&uot; Rayborn said.