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Graham catcher heads for Tar Heels despite draft status

June 10, 2010
North Carolina

By Bob Sutton
Burlington Times-News

- Matt Roberts said waiting through baseball's amateur draft wasn't troublesome.

Despite a final-day selection by the Arizona Diamondbacks, Roberts said he can't wait to fulfill another dream.

"I'm thrilled to be a Tar Heel," he said Wednesday, pointing out that he'll use the scholarship he signed with North Carolina in the fall.

Roberts, a Graham senior catcher, was selected in the 38th round with the 1,141th pick overall by the Diamondbacks.

That was a significantly lower spot in the draft order than many projections. Roberts was listed by scouting analysts as a likely draftee within the first five rounds.

Jay Roberts, the player's father, said several teams made offers exceeding $1 million signing bonuses that would have had the player selected in the supplemental first round, second round or third round. In each case, those were rejected, so those teams went elsewhere with their selections.

"He really did have a passion to play for the Tar Heels," said Jay Roberts, who called the pre-draft process exhausting.

So ultimately, the catcher's asking price in terms of a signing bonus was too steep for the teams most interested in him. That undisclosed specific figure scared off some teams.

"We knew going into it the figure we set was going to be pretty tough to meet," Matt Roberts said. "I'll be going to Carolina for three years and re-enter the draft."

Teams have until Aug. 15 to sign players selected this week. After that, players attending four-year colleges won't be eligible for the draft again until after their junior seasons.

Roberts and his family are assisted by J.D. Smart, a Texas-based advisor. They learned of Smart through connections with the North Carolina team.

Roberts, who was the 31st high school catcher drafted this week, said he understood the parameters of his situation so he wasn't consumed with the draft's rounds passing without his name called. He said he wasn't monitoring the draft when he was picked Wednesday.

He said if he wasn't viewed as a player who could be signed, then teams wouldn't risk drafting him in early rounds.

"We figured it would be late if at all," he said. "We were kind of prepared for it."

Roberts, 18, was an anchor on the Graham team that played in its first baseball state finals, losing in the Class 2-A championship series to East Rutherford last week.

Roberts, a defensive stalwart who had record-setting power numbers on offense for Graham, said it should be clear to the Diamondbacks that the signing-bonus figure won't be lowered.

"We were going to set it high because we value the Carolina education," Roberts said, also repeating a desire to be part of College World Series teams with the Tar Heels. He said North Carolina coach Mike Fox expressed excitement with the decision during a conversation Wednesday.

Roberts said he won't participate in formal baseball activities this summer. He begins a summer session of classes next week in Chapel Hill, he said.

Roberts batted .500 with 56 runs batted in, 13 doubles, 11 home runs, 34 runs scored and 20 intentional walks going into last weekend's state finals.

Tags North Carolina • Publisher
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