- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Austin Booker grew up cheering for the San Francisco Giants and hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps as a professional baseball player.

After the Oakland Athletics drafted him in the 33rd round Wednesday, the Fairfax native will have a chance to pursue his dream across the bay from his favorite team.

Booker, a Robinson High School product, graduated from the University of California on May 4 after majoring in American studies with a concentration on architecture. His career as the second baseman at Berkeley isn’t over, as the Golden Bears will take on Dallas Baptist this weekend in a best-of-three NCAA Super Regional series. Booker enters the weekend with a .313 batting average with 29 runs scored and 24 RBI.

The 2011 season has been filled with drama for the Cal baseball program, which was almost shut down by the university because of budget shortages. Particularly in light of the team’s uncertain future, Booker is thrilled about his team’s postseason run.

“It’s one of the most exciting feelings — the way that we keep battling when everything looks like we’re done and we’re not going to be able to go on. We would always find some way to come back and thrive in that situation and overcome the odds like we had to do all season with the program issue,” Booker said.

However his senior season ends, Booker is excited about the opportunity to play professionally. Austin’s father, Rod Booker, played five seasons in the major leagues for St. Louis and Philadelphia.

“My whole life, my whole dream was to follow in my dad’s footsteps and go on to play at Cal like he did, and eventually get a chance to play professional baseball,” Booker said. “That’s always been my dream, since I could breathe, since I knew what baseball was and what my dad was doing.”

A number of local university students were selected in the late rounds of the draft. A day after Georgetown catcher Erick Fernandez got the nod from the Washington Nationals, teammate Rand Ravnaas was picked by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 39th round. The junior outfielder hit .352 in 2011, leading the team with a .545 slugging percentage. Like Fernandez, however, Ravnaas plans to graduate before pursuing a baseball career.

“I went to Georgetown to get the degree, to graduate from a good school, and it was my main factor in going to college,” Ravnaas said. “After I graduate, I’m going to try to do everything I can to play professional baseball.”

Three University of Maryland juniors also had their names called Wednesday afternoon. Shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez was taken by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 32nd round, while right-handed pitcher Sander Beck went to the Baltimore Orioles in the 33rd round. Outfielder Matt Marquis was drafted in the 41st round by the Boston Red Sox.

The Nationals selected two more players with local ties, Peter Verdin in the 39th round and Matt Snyder in the 44th round. Verdin, who graduated from Paul VI Catholic High School in Alexandria, is a junior outfielder at Georgia. He hit .307 in his sophomore year before dropping to .258 this season.

Snyder, a former first baseman who was forced to move to designated hitter after an injury during his sophomore year, batted .301 in his junior season for Ole Miss, leading his team with 39 RBI. The Centreville native and Westfield High grad currently is recovering from a hit to the face sustained while playing summer baseball.