SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants are hoping it was worth the long wait, tabbing center fielder Ben Copeland from the University of Pittsburgh as their initial selection nearly three hours after the 2005 First-Year Player Draft began. The big question now, however, is how long a wait will it be until he's in San Francisco livery. Copeland, the fourth rounder and 132nd player chosen, certainly boasts impressive batting credentials, having one of the best offensive campaigns in Panthers history this season.
The All-Big East first-team selection broke team single-season records with 219 at-bats, 84 hits, 65 runs, 23 doubles and 10 triples and also led Pitt with a .384 average and .703 slugging percentage as a junior. San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean said before the draft that picking so low in the fourth round was like "a stab in the dark" for choosing prospects.
Copeland, named to USA Baseball's Golden Spikes Award Watch List this year, is the highest Panther drafted in 20 years. Kansas City plucked Chris Jelic in the second round in 1985.
Pittsburgh athletic director Jeff Long said Copeland is a classic student-athlete with solid academic credentials -- and, at least in theory, a chance to make the Major Leagues.
"He's the consummate baseball player who loves the game -- he's the first guy out on the field and the last to leave," said Long. "He works very hard at it, and we're excited he has an opportunity to fulfill his dreams."
Long, who called Copeland a player with "effortless" quality on the field and who makes plays look easy, added the Panthers' sports aficionados are following another Bay Area alumnus, A's manager Ken Macha.
But Copeland has some tools and was rated the draft's 118th best player by Baseball America."Ben is a good defensive center fielder with speed," said Dick Tidrow, the Giants' vice president of player personnel. "He's an offensive left-handed batter and definitely a basestealing threat. "You can't beat around and look for tools, you have to look for now products," Tidrow added, noting Copeland would start at Salem-Keizer's short-season Class A loop but is projected to play at Class A San Jose next year. "He has some pop, is an all-around player and was one of the best left on the board," said Tidrow. "At that pick, we were looking for speed or a good pitcher. "He's a top-of-the-order guy but not leadoff because he has some pop." Still, there was much drumming of fingers and anxiousness as the time clicked by, waiting for their turn. Round one ... round two ... (whew) ... round by round it went. Almost an eternity -- this was the club's latest draft pick ever. "It seemed like three hours," said Tidrow, close to the mark. "It was difficult to go into a draft and sit there for a real long time and not have anything to do, then look back and see there's 130 picks off the board. I wouldn't recommend it if you want to have good drafts." Copeland reportedly fared well in the top-rated Cape Cod League last summer, batting .278, and was a strong basestealer. Termed the fifth-fastest outfielder in college, the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Copeland stole a team-best 29 bases and paced the Panthers to their fourth straight 30-win season and to the Big East Tournament final.
U. of Pittsburgh
Position: CF B/T: L/L
H: 6'1" W: 195
Born: 1983-12-17 Class: 4YR
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.