- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 3, 2003

BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles needed a hitter, but have made a habit of taking a pitcher with their initial pick in the first-year player draft.

By selecting 19-year-old Nick Markakis with the seventh overall choice yesterday, the Orioles got both.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Markakis is an accomplished right fielder and a left-handed pitcher. He hit .439 with 21 homers, 92 RBI and a whopping .843 slugging percentage for Young Harris (Ga.) Junior College this year.

On the mound, he went 12-0 with a 1.68 ERA, 160 strikeouts and 33 walks over 96⅔ innings.

“We feel like we’ve got two players in one,” Orioles scouting director Tony DeMacio said.

Baltimore has drafted a pitcher with its top pick in each of the past four years, and this makes five — sort of. After seeing Markakis routinely drive the ball over the right-field wall at Camden Yards during a workout Monday, the Orioles became more interested in his bat than his left arm.

“We think he’s a hitter, and we drafted him as a hitter,” DeMacio said. “We think he’s going to develop into a power hitter.”

Markakis was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in each of the past two years (35th overall in 2001 and 23rd in 2002), but refused to sign and was thrown back into the mix.

Categorizing the 2002 negotiations, Markakis said “they gave me one offer and said take it or leave it. Not one phone call after that.”

Now, however, he’s ready to deal.

“Those two years of junior college really helped me out,” Markakis said. “I’m ready to move on to my pro career.”

And the Orioles are ready to fork over enough money to get him in the organization before the end of the summer.

“We’ve talked to the family, I think they want to play,” said Jim Beattie, the Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations. “I think he’s put his time in playing, and it’s our hope that we can get him signed and playing this year … I think we’ll be able to reach an agreement fairly quickly.”

Markakis concluded his workout by clearing the 373-foot sign in right-center by at least 10 rows. Even if the ball didn’t leave a dent in the seats, it made a lasting impression on Beattie.

“This kid has really continued to evolve, and we think there is a lot of growth potential there,” Beattie said. “He’s a good pitcher and a good outfielder, but we like him as a hitter.

“We really like his swing, especially as a left-handed hitter in a ballpark like this one. He liked the ballpark, too. I think it’s a good fit.”

The Orioles hope to see him at Camden Yards in a few years, wearing a Baltimore uniform and hitting in the middle of the order. The Orioles have not had a first-round pick play for the team at the major-league level since Jeffrey Hammonds, their top pick in 1992.

With its second-round pick, Baltimore took right-hander Brian Finch of Texas A&M.; The 6-4 pitcher was 6-1 with a 5.40 ERA with the Aggies this year.

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