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Heath finished his breakout junior season with a team-leading .369 average, school-record 19 home runs and 57 RBI.
June 8, 2010
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State junior catcher Ben Heath (Huntersville, N.C.) was selected by the Houston Astros in the fifth round (#153 overall) of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday afternoon. The Louisville Slugger All-American joins the former organization of current Penn State head coach Robbie Wine, who reached the Major League level with Houston in 1986. Also drafted on Tuesday were two incoming freshmen - Kyle Redinger (Lebanon, Pa.) in the 11th round (Astros) and Austin Urban (Windber, Pa.) in the 27th (Baltimore Orioles).
"[The process] has been a little bit of a whirlwind," said Heath. "It's very exciting - a stressful, yet exciting experience."
Heath becomes the Nittany Lions' highest position player chosen since Greg Vogel in 1976. He is also the highest selection for an underclassman in school history and Penn State's highest draft pick since reliever Drew O'Neil was selected in the fourth round in 2008.
"[My experience at] Penn State was huge," said Heath. "I developed a lot as a player there."
Heath enjoyed a breakout junior campaign, finishing the season as the team leader in most every statistical category: average (.369), home runs (19), RBI (57), runs scored (53), doubles (16), extra-base hits (36), total bases (148) and slugging percentage (.747).
On May 14, Heath hit his 18th home run off the season off Minnesota ace and San Francisco Giants' fourth round pick Seth Rosin to break the 32-year Penn State single-season mark held by Dave Simononis, this coming in his first at-bat at the historic Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Overall, Heath homered against three Big Ten aces, all who were selected on Tuesday. Along with Rosin, Alan Oaks (Michigan) was an eighth round pick by the Florida Marlins while Matt Bischoff (Purdue) went in the 20th round to the Seattle Mariners.
"I'm a completely different player than when I came [to Penn State]," said Heath. "Looking back, it's crazy to think of where I've come and where I am now. I wouldn't be here without Penn State and I'm very grateful for that."
Last week, Heath was named a Louisville Slugger Second Team All-American, Penn State's first All-American since 2002. He was a First Team All-Big Ten honoree while also cracking the Dick Howser Trophy and Johnny Bench Award semifinal lists.
One of the nation's top performers this season, Heath is one of only players - along with Miami's Yasmani Grandal - named a Louisville Slugger All-American, Dick Howser Trophy semifinalist and Johnny Bench Award semifinalist. Grandal was drafted 12th overall by the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night. The Howser Trophy, the "Heisman Trophy" of baseball, is presented to the top player in the country. The semifinal list currently consists of only 25 players with three finalists set to be named on June 10.
In 24 Big Ten games, Heath batted .400 with an incredible 1.306 OPS (.495 on-base percentage and .811 slugging percentage). He also posted a 19-game hitting streak, tied for fourth in school history, while reaching base safely in a team-high 26 straight games. In total, he reached base in 49 of his 51 games, including all 24 in conference play.
Also going to the Astros was Redinger in the 11th round (#333 overall). The third baseman out of Cedar Crest High School is ranked as the No. 8 player in Pennsylvania by Perfect Game and No. 325 in the country. He was selected to play in the East Coast Professional Showcase where he was rated as the eighth best corner infield prospect.
Urban, a pitcher and middle infielder went in the 27th round (#808 overall) to the Baltimore Orioles. The multi-talented student-athlete went to Richland High School before signing a National Letter of Intent to attend Penn State. He led his high school squad to a 19-3 record and the Laurel Highlands Championship as a sophomore while also impressing at the plate, hitting .450 with three home runs in 2009.
The draft concludes on Wednesday with rounds 31-50.
Baseball camp information is now available. Call the Sports Camp Office at (814) 865-0561 or email them at SportCampInfo@outreach.psu.edu for more information.
Follow Penn State baseball on Twitter: www.twitter.com/psubaseball.
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