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Astros officially sign No. 1 pick Correa

HOUSTON -- Carlos Correa seemed as comfortable in his surroundings as he did sliding into a No. 12 Astros jersey with his name on the back.

The top overall pick -- and, at 17, the youngest player -- in the First-Year Player Draft, Correa carried himself with the poise of a veteran on Thursday afternoon.

The Astros held a news conference to officially announce the signing of Correa, who took batting practice on the field at Minute Maid Park prior to Thursday's game against the Cardinals.

Correa shook dozens of hands, signed autographs and even posed for a picture with fellow Puerto Ricans Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina of the Cardinals.

And at every point, Correa showed the kind of coolness that made the Astros willing to invest $4.8 million in bonus money to sign him, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

"I'm just happy to be an Astro right now, and I just want to get to the big league level as quickly as I can," Correa said. "I want to be a leader and want to be the face of franchise. I will work hard to be great player, an impact player."

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow was able to sign Correa only three days after he became the first Puerto Rican player to be drafted with the No. 1 overall pick. The Astros envision the shortstop will be a cornerstone for years to come.

"This is a monumental day for us, for him and for the city of Houston," Luhnow said. "We're delighted."

The Astros singed Correa for substantially less than the $7.2 million signing bonus prescribed by Major League Baseball, which means they could use that money toward other Draft picks.

It's likely they'll go beyond the $1.258 million bonus pool value to sign Florida high school pitcher Lance McCullers Jr., who was taken with the 41st pick and is considered first-round talent.

"Our goal is to have an event like this during our next homestand for Lance," Luhnow said. "We have a long way to go to get there, but that's our goal and I'm optimistic we'll get something done."

Correa graduates from high school in Puerto Rico on Sunday, and two days later will report to extended spring training in Kissimmee, Fla. He will begin the season in the Astros' Gulf Coast League affiliate in Kissimmee. The rest is up to him.

"My goal has always been to reach the Hall of Fame," said Correa, who wears No. 12 in honor of the year he was drafted and his boyhood hero, Roberto Alomar. "I want to work hard to reach the big leagues, and that's one of my goals. My first goal is to be the first pick and I made it."

Correa has become a hero in Puerto Rico. In his home town of Santa Isabel, he was greeted with a parade after he returned home from the Draft. He signed autographs out of his garage for three hours and has reached celebrity status.

"It's history," Correa said. "I just feel proud to be here. All the hard work pays off and I feel proud to be a Puerto Rican and to represent the Houston Astros. I will do it with honor and I will make it a better organization."

Beltran doesn't underestimate the significance of what Correa has accomplished.

"It really means a lot," he said. "I think Correa is a hero in Puerto Rico, being the first pick overall, and at the same time it's going to motivate a lot of kids back home in Puerto Rico to play the game of baseball. There's going to be a lot of expectation on him, but I believe he's going to be able to handle everything the right way."

Beltran and Molina called Correa after he was drafted and expressed their pride.

"I know a lot of kids watch what we do on the field, but off the field also," Beltran said. "Now it's his time and time for him to be able to do it the right way."

Correa was accompanied in Houston by his father, Carlos Sr., and mother, Sandy, along with a younger brother and sister. Correa's father works 12 hours a day, six days a week, as a construction worker and has earned the nickname "24/7" for his relentless work ethic.

"Being the son of a construction worker, you appreciate what hard work does," said Astros scout Larry Pardo, who signed Correa. "It puts a roof over his head and his father sets the foundation. Dad came home and set his boots aside and went and threw him BP."

In fact, Carlos Sr. threw his son about 300 pitches each day in the family's backyard.

"Since he was a kid, he always wanted to be at the park," Carlos Sr. said. "He loved baseball and wanted to be a part of it."

It could be a couple of years before Astros fans see Correa on the Minute Maid Park field again, but he exudes the kind of confidence that makes you believe he'll be back sooner than later.

"I want to play baseball, I want to play for the Houston Astros," he said. "I don't want to lose time. I feel comfortable signing. I like this team."

Houston Astros, Carlos Correa