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Pirates, first-rounder Meadows come to terms

Georgia high school outfielder was No. 9 overall pick in this year's Draft

PITTSBURGH -- Austin Meadows hasn't seen much of Pittsburgh or PNC Park, the place he hopes, in a few years, will be his permanent home. But the Pirates' first-round pick already has one goal in mind.

"I have not [toured the stadium] yet, but I want to put one in the river," Meadows said at an introductory press conference at PNC Park on Friday afternoon, referring to the Allegheny River, which flows past the Clemente Wall in right field. "That would be pretty neat."

The Pirates agreed to terms with Meadows, the No. 9 overall selection in the First-Year Player Draft earlier this month, and announced the signing Friday. The outfielder will begin his professional career with the Gulf Coast League Pirates.

The deal is worth $3,029,600, according to a source. That makes Meadows the second of the top 11 picks in this year's Draft to sign for full slot value.

The Pirates received the No. 9 pick as compensation for not signing Stanford right-hander Mark Appel after taking him with the No. 8 pick in last year's Draft. Appel returned to school for his senior season and was taken No. 1 overall this year by Houston.

Meadows had committed to Clemson, and his mother, Staci, a third grade teacher, has always believed in education first -- it was never a question if he'd go to college. But as the scouts continued to show up at their home, and becoming a top-10 pick became realistic, she changed her mind.

"This is a golden opportunity. These are not things that you can let slide," said Staci, who played softball on scholarship at Georgia Southern then Georgia State. "You've got to just take this opportunity and go to school later. Once I understood the process, I was a little more lenient on going back to get your education later."

The 18-year-old Meadows hit .535 with 14 doubles, one triple, four home runs and 28 RBIs as a senior this year at Grayson (Ga.) High School. He was ranked fifth among Draft prospects by and was the second-ranked high school prospect on the list. He was rated as the third-best position player in this year's Draft by Baseball America.

He was also rated by Baseball America as the "Best Athlete," having the "Best Strike Zone Judgment," as well as being the second-best "Pure Hitter" and "Closest Player to the Majors" among high school players.

For all the accolades and rankings he's received, Meadows said his best quality is work ethic, which he got from his father, Ken, who has been pushing him since he started playing baseball at age 3.

"I've always been a hard worker. I've always had that tough attitude," Meadows said. "I played football, and I got my tough mentality from that."

The Pirates came to terms with their other first-round pick, high school catcher Reese McGuire, on June 18. McGuire, the 14th overall selection, signed for $2.369 million, about $200,000 below the slot value for the 14th pick.

With the deal for Meadows now complete, the Pirates reportedly have $232,800 remaining in their pool allotment to potentially spend on over-slot deals with sixth-round pick Adam Frazier and seventh-round pick Buddy Borden.

The signing deadline for drafted players changed from mid-August to mid-July as a part of Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement, so Meadows can go to Bradenton, Fla., and get some professional experience in his first year. In the past, players have waited longer to sign and not played at all until the following spring. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington sees this as benefit to the organization and the players.

"He gets a chance to see what it's like to play six days a week," Huntington said. "He can get up every morning go play in the summer heat in Florida and prepare himself for a 144-game season."

Meadows had the short, but similar, experience of focusing on baseball every day at the IBAF World Youth Championship in Mexico in 2011. He led the United States 16U National Team in hits, doubles, triples, stolen bases and RBIs (his 28 driven in were a tournament record).

"It really helped me. With the caliber of talent that I played with. And especially being away from home, being accustomed to being away from home," Meadows said, "it was definitely a good experience to get away and play teams of that caliber."

Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for Reporter Jonathan Mayo contributed.

Pittsburgh Pirates