Chris Pike was always going to be a professional baseball player. Even if you asked him when he was 6, he was bound for pro ball.
"It's all he wanted his entire life," said his father, Gary Pike. "There were times when we thought he was overdoing it and would get burned out. He'd played in the Dominican Republic, Arizona, Florida and all over the country before he was 10 years old. And it was all he talked about.''
Pike realized his dream to play professionally when he was selected by Tampa Bay in the ninth round of the MLB draft with the 277th overall pick Friday.
The Oklahoma City University righthander, who graduated from Southampton High School, made headlines earlier this season when he threw a perfect game and followed that with a no-hitter. He finished 10-3 with eight complete games, a 1.89 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 902/3 innings. Opposing hitters batted .182 against Pike.
"I'll sign my contract with Tampa on Monday and be on my way to Florida,'' Pike said. "I've played on nationally ranked teams since I was 7 years old and I've always dreamed that one day I'd be a professional player and that I'd actually get paid to do what I love more than anything. And it makes all the work worth it.''
Pike, who led Southampton to back-to-back LI titles, said he played more than 100 games a year through his travel team years and gave up quite a bit to focus on baseball. "I didn't do much of anything else,'' he said. "I was focused on baseball and gave up pretty much everything else. I practiced every day and played with older players like Marcus Stroman, whose work ethic was second to none.''
The first Long Islander to be selected was righthander Brian Hunter of Port Jefferson and the University of Hartford. He was picked by Cincinnati with the 275th overall pick. Hunter (6-3, 210), who graduated from St. John the Baptist High School, converted from catcher to a hard-throwing pitcher in college. He was 4-8 with a 4.13 ERA and had 64 strikeouts in 802/3 innings.
"It's sinking in now,'' Hunter said. "This is something that I thought about for a long time. And when I converted from catcher to pitcher, it was a move that even my high school coach, John Habyan, thought would eventually happen and help me realize my dream of playing professionally.''
When Hunter moved to the mound, the transition was seamless. "I'll sign my contract on Monday and be gone by the end of the week,'' he said. "It's very exciting.''
Shortstop Jesse Berardi (5-10, 185) of Commack was taken in the 40th round with the 1,192nd pick by Philadelphia. He was the only Long Island high school player drafted.
Righthander James Duff (6-6, 200) of Garden City High and Stonehill College was taken by the Mets in the 20th round with the 595th pick.