EDITOR'S NOTE: The Press Gazette is counting down the top sports stories of 2012. Here is No. 7, Russell selected by Oakland.
Addison Russell has experienced an interesting past 48 hours.
Saturday, Russell and his fellow Pace High Patriots walked across the stage at the Pensacola Civic Center for commencement exercises.
Monday night Russell became a major league baseball player as the Oakland A’s selected him in the first round with the No. 11 pick overall.
“I have been looking forward to the draft,” said Russell prior to his graduation. “The big leagues are a dream. I have two options on Monday and that is three years of school or starting my professional career.
“I will be happy with whatever happens, but we are looking at going in the top 15 or I will just go to (Auburn).”
Russell, who was a member of the USA U-18 National Team who brought home gold from the 2011 COPABE 18U/AAA Pan American Championships, signed to play baseball at Auburn University in this past January.
With Monday’s draft Russell is the highest Major League Baseball draft choice in Santa Rosa County since Drew Cumberland, who was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 2007 MLB Draft with the 46th pick in the supplemental round.
“This has been a heck of a year for Addison and this is one heck of an accomplishment,” said Pace head coach Charlie Warner. “Today was a great day for the Russell family, the Pace High family, and Santa Rosa County.
“Good things happen to good people and Addison is an awesome person.”
Russell, who has been under a microscope since he busted on scene as a freshman in Pace in 2009, was criticized by some due to his size.
That was not an issue to Russell who came into the 2012 high school baseball season leaner and ready to show his desire to play at the next level after high school.
“Addison is a pretty focused on what he wants and is very goal oriented,” Warner said. “He knew what was being said about his size and he came into the 2012 season 20 pounds lighter to help him reach his goal.
“He has been that way since I have known him.”
The recent Pace graduate, who admitted his love of fishing and eating pizza before a game, has dealt with the pressure rather well during his high school years.
“At times it has been stressful,” Russell said. “It is not easy being under the microscope all the time.
“But in some ways it has been good as I have become a role model for younger players in the area and that is a good point.”
During Russell’s career at Pace he has played in three state finals for the Patriots and was a member of the 2010 Class 5A State Championship, which also won the ESPN Baseball America High School National Title.
Russell finished 2012 batting .358 with eight home runs and 33 RBI’s for the Patriots, who lost in the Class 6A State Finals to Archbishop McCarthy 4-3 back on May 18.
For his career at Pace he batted .460 with 37 home runs.
For the Oakland Athletics, Russell is the first high school senior the franchise has drafted since 2001 when the organizations drafted Jeremy Bonderman.
Since 1991 the A’s have only other high school players taken in the first round include Eric Chavez (1996) and Ben Grieve (1994).
The Russell File
The MLB.com look at Russell
A shortstop in high school, perhaps a third baseman at the next level, it doesn’t matter. It will be Russell’s bat that gets him drafted. The Florida prep infielder has very good bat speed and doesn’t get cheated at the plate, with above-average power to his pull side. He’s an average runner who is better underway. He does have some good defensive skills, with plus arm strength and good hands. He’s gotten a little thicker recently and there was some question about his range to begin with, so a move to third makes sense. He will also need to stay back more at the plate and not get fooled by off-speed stuff, things that should come with time and experience. He should profile very well as an every-day third baseman when all is said and done.