The one who probably won’t get away • 06.09.10
Yankees first-round pick Cito Culver was supposed to be on a conference call with the media at 4 p.m. on Tuesday. It was pushed back to 4:30 because Culver was getting a tuxedo for the senior ball at his high school. He and a friend picked out a pinstriped version, and there was disappointment in his voice when he told the New York writers that the pinstripes are black, not blue.
“I’ve been working for this all my life,” Culver said. “And to go 32 overall to my favorite team, and the team I’ve been growing up watching, and the team my family has followed for years now, it was an awesome feeling. It was unreal.”
Two years ago, the Yankees drafted a high school kid who didn’t sign. That doesn’t seem likely in this case. Culver has advisors working for him, and so he naturally didn’t rule out the idea of sticking to his commitment to the University of Maryland, but there was a sense that he simply couldn’t help himself.
“I think that I just can’t wait to be a Yankee,” he said.
WHY HE PLAYS BASEBALL: “My whole family grew up playing baseball. If you didn’t play baseball in my family you were pretty much exiled from the family. It’s something that ran in the family, and when you have a lot of cousins like I do – I have a ton of cousins – they’re all playing baseball and you’re going to play with them. It’s just something that grew on me.”
WHAT KIND OF PLAYER HE IS: “Switch hitter. Love to hit. Love to hit from both sides. I’m a pretty good runner. My best asset I think is my arm strength. I think I have good feet in the infield, know how to get myself in good position to take a ground ball and make an accurate throw.”
WHAT POSITION HE EXPECTS TO PLAY: “I see myself as a shortstop. That’s the position I played growing up, throughout my whole life. Once a shortstop always a shortstop, but I’m open to do whatever the team needs to do to get the win.”
WHAT HE EXPECTED ON MONDAY: “I wasn’t really sure to be honest. I knew a couple of teams were interested in me. Did I know I’d go 32 overall? No I didn’t. When I was called, I was very grateful and just honored to be able to begin and finish off my career being a Yankee.”
WHY DEREK JETER IS HIS FAVORITE PLAYER: “I just love the way he plays the game. He goes hard every time. The best part about his game to me is when he hits a ground ball, he runs it out hard every time. You can expect that from him, just giving his best effort every time. That’s something I want to resemble when I get older, playing as hard as he did. He’s one of the best that’s ever played the game.”
What the Yankees see in Cito Culver • 06.08.10
Granted, you wouldn’t expect Damon Oppenheimer to say bad things about his first-round draft pick, but the Yankees put their money where their mouth is by drafting Cito Culver with the 32nd pick last night. It’s clear they believe in this kid, and they’ve seen him enough to have a pretty informed opinion. Among the scouts sent to watch Culver was Bill Livesey, who was the Yankees scouting director the year Derek Jeter was drafted.
In the words of Oppenheimer, here’s a quick scouting report on the latest Yankees prospect.
BAT: “Switch hitter. We like him from both sides of the plate. An above average hitter. He has pop in his bat, even with wood. It’s high school, but he’s hitting the ball over the fence in center field with a heavier wood bat than most of these kids we see using. The kid only struck out twice. We saw him all summer against the better stuff, guys throwing hard, and he squared the ball up well during that time so we think he’s going to hit. We think there’s a chance for power too.”
GLOVE: “You always keep your mind open, but his tools and his ability were what attracted us as a shortstop. You never know how long it will take for a guy to get there, and what’s in front of him when he does get there, but I think the fact that he’s in the middle of the field right now, we project him to be a shortstop. Worst-case scenario, if somebody was there blocking his way, you’re talking about a switch hitter that can run and do some other things, it would allow him (to change positions) if you need to.”
ARM: “He has a great arm. He’s up to 95 on the mound, but the idea of being able to get a switch-hitting shortstop is more attractive right now than a thrower, which is really what he is as a pitcher.”
MAKEUP: “He’s a no-nonsense kid. He’s a yes sir, no sir kid. He’s very solid. He’s not going to come out and be real emotional one way or the other. He’s a very solid kid who’s really passionate toward baseball. He’s a good person. We feel he’s a high-character kid. We watched him play real hard, so we felt real good about his makeup.”
SIGNABILITY: “He really wants to be a Yankee. I think that we’re going to get him. We should get him signed and get him out playing really soon. This guy really has a passion to make it through the minor leagues and play in New York.”
The Yankees seemed to go off the board with their first-round pick last night. Cito Culver did not seem to be on anyone’s mind except Damon Oppenheimer, who called it “an easy decision.”
“I didn’t know what to do,” Culver told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “My legs gave out, I just fell. I love the Yankees.”
Culver hasn’t had the easiest path. His father is in prison for arson and other charges, and Culver has apparently used baseball and basketball as a release from what could not possibly have been an easy situation.
“He definitely, 100 percent, jumps out at you when you see him field and throw a baseball,” an opposing coach told the Rochester newspaper. “You would say ‘Wow.’ He’s that good, that kind of player… I tell you what, he’s the most-regarded position player from around here in a long, long time, in terms of being able to make it at the next level.”
Culver has committed to play at Maryland, but the Yankees will obviously try to convince him to turn pro. It’s worth noting that Culver played on the Yankees’ Area Code team last summer and worked out at Yankee Stadium. The rest of us might not know much about him, but you can bet the Yankees have seen him plenty of times and made the choice for a reason.