A map of the United States shows the distance between Ashdown, Arkansas and San Francisco, California to be 1,603 miles. A good distance, but for $230.00 United Airlines will get you from Little Rock to San Francisco in 3 hours and 35 minutes. That would be the most direct route.
Kentrell Hill, the San Francisco Giants 10th pick in the 2011 First Year Player Draft, will be taking that same journey but on a slightly different route and with a more specific goal: to be in a Giants’ uniform in the outfield of AT&T Park during a Major League baseball game.
Kentrell Hill is 20 years old, focused and articulate with a soft Texarkana accent. In the summer after he tore up NJCAA Division I baseball in his sophmore year at Arkansas Baptist College, Hill has been drafted by the 2010 World Champion Giants, and he is determined to make his dream of playing in the Major League come true. This season, he batted .402 with a .698 SLG, .428 OBP, and 11 homers and 50 RBI in 56 games. His 35 SBs displayed Hill’s blazing speed, which includes doing the 40-yard dash in 4.4.
I had a chance to talk with Kentrell Hill in a phone interview this week and we did a series of quick hits discussing the excitement of going through the MLB draft and his background in rural southwestern Arkansas less than six miles from the Texas border:
The Giants Cove
Kentrell, how did you know you might be included in the 2011 MLB draft? How does that work?
During the middle of the 2011 season at Arkansas Baptist, I started getting some attention– scouts started coming in to watch me play, and then they began really showing attention, so I knew the chance [of being drafted] was getting better. At some point I knew I would be drafted this year I just didn’t know which team would draft me. Ashdown High is really small, I think we graduated about 120 kids, and Arkansas is small, so you don’t know if the scouts will see you. The goal is to play hard. All you can do is play hard all the time. And this time the scouts noticed it and wanted to know more about me.
GC: When Major League scouts come to see you play do they just sit in the stands or will they come up to you and let you know they’re at the field?
KH: At first the scouts would just come out and sit in the stands, and we figured they were watching the pitchers. But later on they would come into the dugout and introduce themselves and shake hands.
GC: Did you participate in any of the predraft workouts MLB teams sometimes set up around the country to better judge player skills and abilities?
KH: I was invited to a number of workouts conducted by scouts but I didn’t attend any of them. None were local and it’s expensive to travel to the workout locations, you have to pay you own way so I had to pass.
GC: Where were you on draft day Monday June 13th?
KH: I was at home with a couple of friends watching the draft on the Internet, MLB.com on line. During the draft I got a phone call from the Houston Astros, who asked me some questions. Then the Giants called and we talked some and right after we hung up the phone my name came up on the screen; it was like 30 seconds after I got off the phone. Seeing my name up there was amazing, so exciting.
GC: There’s always a lot of sports media pre-draft predictions and mock drafts to see where players might be picked. The general assessment this year was that after some top pitching prospects in the top ten, there was a large number of highly talent players spread out through the rest of the draft. Before draft day did you check out where you were predicted to get picked?
KH: Yeah… they had me anywhere from round 4 to round 10, so watching was really exciting and I’m fortunate it worked out all right. I celebrated with my family and friends and we had a lot fun that day. It’s been so exciting, this is such a big moment in my life and I’m just enjoying it right now.
The MLB First Year Player Draft consists of 50 rounds over several days. This year 1,530 players were picked and the Giants took Kentrell Hill in round 10– the 327th player picked. That puts him in the top 21% of all players in the 2011 draft. Teams must provide written notice and a minor league contract to selected players within 15 days of the draft. So by July 1st drafted players and their representatives will know the economic terms initially being offered by their teams.
MLB teams have until August 15th of each year to sign drafted players. If a selected player is not signed, the draft team loses excluisve signing rights and the player can return to school or elect to join an independent league. Those players can participate in the 2012 draft if they are still eligible.GC: What are you doing this summer?
KH: Right now, I’m working out every day running and hitting. I go to Ashdown High School to run and then go over to the city park to hit.
GC: Ashdown, Arkansas is right at the Texas border so I’m guessing you grew up following the Texas Rangers.
KH: Yes sir, that’s the team [laughs]. That’s my team.
GC: Any particular players you followed on the Rangers when you were growing up and did you go to many games?
KH: I’ve always been an Ian Kinsler fan, and of course Josh Hamilton– those are my Ranger guys. When I was younger I went to quite a few games, me and my friends would go to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in the summertime. Had some great times watching games there. Other players I like watching are Torii Hunter, who is from Arkansas, and Austin Jackson of the Tigers. He’s a guy I just enjoy watching– I love the way he plays.
GC: Should I even ask you who you rooted for in the World Series last year?
KH: [Laughing] Of course you know I rooted for the Giants, sir. That’s the story I’m sticking with…
GC: You put up some huge numbers in your sophomore year at Arkansas Baptist. How is the baseball program there and what’s your thinking about signing a contract or continuing with college?
KH: Arkansas Baptist has an up and coming baseball program, and it’s a great place for anyone wanting to work on their game and try to get better. It’s been great to participate in their baseball program and I was fortunate to be part of it. I was originally a shortstop but converted to playing center field; it was big change but it ended up making me a better all around player. As for what the future holds, I am ready to be a big leaguer, that’s what I want to work toward, that’s what I want to do, that’s been the dream. Hopefully everything will work out.
GC: When you do get some down time, what kind of stuff do you like to do?
KH: I love fishing, I love to ride horses, just being with friends in the outdoors. I’ll go see action movies or anything funny, and the only TV I really watch a lot is ESPN Sports Center.
GC: What is your main focus right now?
KH: Staying in shape, keeping my skills sharp, trying to better myself.
Giants Cove readers will get periodic updates on Kentrell Hill’s journey and we wish this super talented young player all the best. Note: the Giants signed Kentrell Hill on June 25, 2011!