UBC Thunderbirds third basemen – and Surrey resident – Mitch Robinson was selected by the New York Yankees in this week’s Major League Baseball draft. (UBC Athletics photo)

Surrey, Langley players selected in Major League Baseball Draft

Clayton Heights’ Mitch Robinson highlights local draft class after selection by New York Yankees

A quartet of young baseball players from Surrey, White Rock and Langley heard their names called during this week’s Major League Baseball Draft, which began Monday and wrapped up Wednesday afternoon.

The first local player off the board was Nick Trogrlic-Iverson, a former member of the Langley Blaze of the BC Premier Baseball League who was drafted in the 15th round by the Milwaukee Brewers, and he was followed six rounds later by another former member of the Blaze, Clayton Heights resident Mitch Robinson, who recently wrapped up his senior season as a third basemen for the University of B.C. Thunderbirds.

After Robinson’s selection – in the 21st round to the New York Yankees – the draft went another 14 rounds before another local name was called, when Cloverdale’s Damiano Palmegiani was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in Round 35. Palmegiani plays high-school ball in Alberta, for the Vauxhall Academy.

In the 40th and final round, Semiahmoo Peninsula pitcher David Rhodes – who currently plays in the PBL for the Blaze – was chosen by the Seattle Mariners.

Though he could not divulge much information while the draft was still happening, Milwaukee Brewers scout Marty Lehn – a White Rock resident who is also the general manager of the White Rock Tritons’ PBL program – said this year’s draft did feature a strong local contingent.

“The talent pool is pretty high,” Lehn told Peace Arch News, just moments after his team selected Troglic-Iverson, who now attends Central Arizona College.

Lehn added that Trogrlic-Iverson “has some real good upside.”

To be eligible for the MLB draft, players can be either in their junior or senior years of a four-year university, in any year of a junior-college program, or be seniors in high school. For the high-schoolers – such as Rhodes and Palmegiani – they can choose not to sign with their new MLB teams and play at the post-secondary level instead, and hope to be redrafted in a subsequent year.

Rhodes, for example, already has a scholarship inked with the NCAA’s University of Washington Huskies, while Palmegiani is set to attend Cal State-Northridge.

It’s for those reasons, rather than any based upon on-field talent, that players such as those two slip down the draft boards, Lehn explained.

“Signability becomes an issue for a lot of guys (with scholarships),” he said.

For university-level seniors like Robinson – who cannot return to school – the draft means they will have the opportunity to move to the pro level immediately, once they sign contracts with their new teams.

“It just feels amazing, I can’t really put it into words,” said Robinson in a news release issued by UBC Wednesday. “I’ve worked a long time for it, it validates that hard work does pay off and it just feels really good and I’m really excited.”

This past season, Robinson led UBC with a .361 batting average, was named to the all-NAIA West all-star team, and won a Cascade Collegiate Conference gold glove award for his work in the field.

“I think Mitchell’s going to be a good pro and he’ll be a great Yankee,” said UBC coach Chris Pritchett.

Rhodes is a former White Rock-South Surrey Baseball Association member who later moved to the Whalley organization, and in recent years has spent the bulk of his amateur baseball career playing south in the border, in the Seattle area.

Regardless of whether he chooes to stay the course with the University of Washington or turn pro with the Mariners, Lehn – who spoke to PAN prior to Rhodes being selected – said the young hurler “has a really bright future, whether it’s college or the pros.”

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