Bichette Jr. close to 'Uncle Joe' Girardi

Dante Bichette, Jr. during an at-bat at the

Dante Bichette, Jr. during an at-bat at the 2010 Under Armour All-American Game at Wrigley Field. (Aug. 14, 2010) (Credit: Damen Jackson/Icon SMI)

Top Yankees draft pick Dante Bichette Jr. is so close to Joe Girardi that he calls him "Uncle Joe."

"I think I'm going to have to stop that," Bichette said Tuesday.

The Yankees made Bichette their first pick on Monday, the first day of the Major League Baseball draft. The son of the former major leaguer was selected 51st overall.

Bichette, 18, was a shortstop and two-time All-Central Florida Player of the Year at Orangewood Christian High School, where he hit .640 with 10 home runs this season. The 6-1, 215-pounder is expected to play third base in the pros.

His father was an outfielder for 14 seasons and was Girardi's teammate with the Rockies from 1993-95. One of Girardi's sons is named Dante after his friend.

"It's a special family," Girardi said. "My wife and his wife are very close and I've seen Junior basically been working at this his whole life.

"He was a wonderful little kid. We'd all stay at our house and little Dante would sometimes have a hard time going to sleep at night. We'd get in the car and drive him around. And you think this is the kid we drafted today, the kid that I was trying to get to sleep in the car seat."

Bichette was with his family when the selection was announced. It's exactly what they were hoping for.

"It's the most prestigious club around," he said. "I think there's nothing better than being a Yankee. You grow up as a little kid dreaming of being a Yankee, of hitting a home run in Yankee Stadium."

Girardi, though, said he had nothing to do with the pick.

"Our club felt he was the best available player at that spot," Girardi said, "and I'm thrilled to death because I've known this little guy for a long time."

Said Bichette: "It's just a great thing that I might be able to play for him one day."

That day, if it happens, will be far in the future. First, Bichette and the Yankees must agree on a contract; he has a commitment to the University of Georgia as a fallback plan. But Bichette made it clear he is eager to sign.

"Hopefully I can pretty rapidly come to a conclusion with the Yankees," he said. "I'd love to be able to start my professional career as soon as possible . . . I think we'll be able to reach a conclusion pretty quickly and get out there."

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