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Two-way athlete turns focus to future with A's

OAKLAND -- He's probably not the next Bo Jackson, but Draft choice B.J. Boyd will hope to be just as forceful of a presence for the A's organization.

Selected in the fourth round (139th overall) by Oakland in the First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday, Boyd starred in center field for Palo Alto (Calif.) High School this season, showing off his athleticism with his range on defense and spraying the ball all over the field at the plate.

And like Jackson, the legendary athlete who was the first to become an All-Star in the Major Leagues and a Pro Bowler in the NFL, Boyd was quite the football player for his high school as well. Playing running back and receiver this season, he totaled more than 1,100 receiving yards, caught 17 touchdowns and ran back kickoffs for seven more scores. For his efforts, Boyd was named the San Jose Mercury News Player of the Year last fall.

But Boyd has always preferred baseball, and after being drafted on Tuesday by the team he rooted for growing up, the path to the big leagues is suddenly before him.

"I'm happy for him," said Erick Raich, head baseball coach at Palo Alto. "I know it's something he's been striving for. We knew he was going to get drafted, the question was just how high. I think fourth round is pretty honorable, and the A's are going to get a good player in B.J."

Given his skills on the football field, it comes as no surprise that Boyd's biggest strengths on the diamond are his speed and athleticism. His ability to get to every ball hit near him in center has made him an above-average defender, and Boyd stole 25 bases this season in 32 attempts.

Raich recalled one game in which, just days after the team spent time working on baserunning, his star senior got caught with a bad jump while stealing third. But instead of getting thrown out, as he inevitably would have been, Boyd simply reversed direction and sprinted back to second. He reached the base safely -- and, undaunted, promptly stole third successfully just a couple pitches later.

And Boyd's athleticism was the first thing that A's scouting director Eric Kubota mentioned when asked about the type of player his fourth-round pick was, calling him explosive.

But the outfielder has proved that he's not all flash and no substance -- he can handle the bat as well as any prospect. Boyd hit .507 this season for the Vikings and struck out only nine times in 71 at-bats.

The one question surrounding Boyd's game, though, is his power. Despite his muscular build and all-around athleticism -- Raich said it's amazing how strong the senior can be in the weight room, despite never taking part in a true lifting program -- scouts have questioned whether Boyd will develop power as a professional, and indeed, he only hit one home run this season.

For their part, Raich and Kubota both think Boyd is more than capable of eventually becoming a power threat, with Raich saying a few minor tweaks with his mechanics and approach would yield plenty more extra-base hits. Boyd revealed his power potential in a pre-Draft workout at the Coliseum a few days ago, wowing A's brass with several long home runs.

"We saw the same kind of things during the season," Kubota said. "We thought that there was a strength and an explosiveness there in his swing to develop power."

It's easy to envision Boyd crossing the Bay and taking his place one day in the A's outfield alongside other athletic outfielders like Coco Crisp and Yoenis Cespedes. But that day is probably a long way away. Forget whether he can learn to hit homers -- Boyd will be beating the odds if he even makes it to the Majors. It's a long road through the Minor Leagues, especially for a kid straight out of high school.

Raich pulled Boyd aside at various points this season to talk to him about the arduous path that lay ahead -- long, lonely nights in Minor League towns and competition the likes of which Boyd hasn't yet seen. It will be tough, but Raich thinks his star pupil is prepared.

"Ability-wise, it's all there," Raich said. "From this point on, it's about how hard he can grind it out."

For Boyd, getting drafted by Oakland is just about the best graduation gift he could ask for. The new A's prospect and the rest of his classmates will receive their Palo Alto High diplomas on Wednesday.

After that, he's on his own, off to chase a dream that suddenly seems very real.

Oakland Athletics