Appling County High School, Associated Press
SECAUCUS, N.J. — Carlos Correa was all smiles when he heard his name announced, knowing he had made hometown history at the baseball draft.
The Houston Astros selected the 17-year-old slugging shortstop with the No. 1 pick Monday night, making him the first player from Puerto Rico to lead off the draft.
"This means a lot," Correa said from the draft site at MLB Network studios. "We've got a lot of good players there."
Correa, however, is the only one to be drafted first from an island that has produced its share of baseball royalty: Roberto Clemente, Ivan Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Juan Gonzalez, Bernie Williams. Some of those players signed as free agents — catcher Ramon Castro had been the highest-drafted player out of Puerto Rico, going No. 17 to Houston in 1994.
"I feel so excited to be the No. 1 pick," said Correa, who was congratulated by Delgado on Twitter. "I've worked so hard to be here."
It was the first time Houston had the top pick in the draft since 1992, when the Astros selected Phil Nevin — passing on a young shortstop named Derek Jeter, who went five spots later to the Yankees.
"I have read about that," Correa said, calling Jeter his idol as much for the New York captain's character off the field as on. "I want to be like him. He's awesome."
First-year Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Correa "has a chance to be a star" who could hit 20-30 home runs in the pros, whether it's as a shortstop or "ultimately maybe third base."
Correa said he'd like to stay at shortstop, and he plans to use his signing bonus to help his family financially.
As he walked to the podium and shook hands with Commissioner Bud Selig before a brief hug, Correa pulled out a small Puerto Rican flag and held it up to big cheers from the crowd of major league representatives and fans gathered in the stadium-themed studio.
Correa was one of five players in attendance at the draft, but his introduction was far from the most entertaining. Texas high school outfielder Courtney Hawkins did a backflip — after being prodded by a television reporter when a video was shown of him landing one — a few moments after going No. 13 to the Chicago White Sox.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Hawkins, wearing a White Sox cap and jersey, spoke to general manager Kenny Williams right after he stuck his landing.
"They said, 'Go do it,' so I went and did it," a smiling Hawkins said. "But Mr. Williams said: 'No more.'"
While the NFL has a few dozen players show up for its draft, baseball has slowly made its event a place to be with the televised first round and major league representatives on hand — just a few years after it once was held entirely by conference call. The five players in attendance this year were the most since the draft moved to MLB Network studios in 2009.
Joining Correa and Hawkins were Oklahoma State lefty Andrew Heaney (No. 9, Marlins), Louisiana high school shortstop Gavin Cecchini (No. 12, Mets) and Washington high school catcher Clint Coulter, who went 27th to the Brewers.
Heaney, a draft-eligible sophomore, had tears in his eyes after Miami selected him. Sitting with the other prospects in a makeshift dugout, Heaney headed over to shake Selig's hand and soon was wearing a Marlins cap and jersey.
"That's about all that went through my mind is, don't trip," a beaming Heaney said.
While recent drafts lacked first-pick intrigue, Luhnow said the Astros didn't settle on Correa until about an hour before they went on the clock. Several mock draft lists predicted the Astros would select Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, but instead Houston made a somewhat surprising selection — although Correa was considered one of the top five players available.
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