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Anderson wins Don't Count Him Out Award

Nationals select high school pitcher with final pick in First-Year Player Draft

NEW YORK -- Shaun Anderson has been waiting for this moment for a long time.

Anderson, a prep pitcher out of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Fla., realized a great personal ambition Saturday when he was chosen in the First-Year Player Draft. But because he happened to be the 1,216th overall pick in the 40th round -- the final pick of the Draft -- he'll be honored in another way as well.

Anderson will go down as the 15th recipient of the annual Don't Count Him Out Award. The 18-year-old right-hander said he'll likely choose to enroll at the University of Florida, but he was still happy to know that his Draft rights belong to the Washington Nationals.

That distinction is noted every year for the final pick in the longest draft in professional sports, and Anderson may get to meet last year's winner, Eric Hanhold, who now pitches for the University of Florida. Anderson, for his part, said he spent the last three days waiting for his name.

"I watched all day yesterday because one of my closest friends was getting drafted and I was really happy for him," said Anderson. "I didn't know whether or not I was going to go today, so I've just been checking up on As soon as I saw it, my heart just dropped. It was the best feeling to know that all my work has been recognized and that I have a chance to do something great."

Anderson's school, American Heritage, produced three draftees this year, and Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer is also a recent alumnus. A friend, Brandon Diaz, was drafted by the Brewers on Friday, and Anderson spent most of Saturday celebrating that accomplishment. Battery-mate Zack Collins was also drafted today, as the Reds took him in the 27th round.

But then it was time for Anderson's own achievement. He said he was returning home when he found out about being drafted, and he got to celebrate the moment with his parents immediately.

"I was on my way home, but it was actually like 30 seconds after I got home," said Anderson. "As soon as I got home, I came in and said, 'Mom, Dad, I got drafted!' And they were like, 'We know!' Congratulations!' It was an awesome feeling."

Anderson, listed at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds, throws 92 miles per hour and is forecasted by Draft expert Jonathan Mayo to have an above-average future fastball. The youngster said he didn't play other sports for fear of injury in high school, and he'll ride baseball as far as it takes him.

But for now, that probably means the college experience at the University of Florida. Anderson said that he thinks he can put time and work in at college and emerge as a better prospect.

"Most likely, I'll go to UF, because I know in three years I'm going to get a lot stronger and smarter. I think I'll be more ready to go in three years than I am right now," Anderson said. "In your freshman year, you think, 'I hope I get into a good college for school.' As soon as you commit to college, then it's like, 'Now I've got to work for the draft.'

"For the last three years, that's all I've been doing, and the past three days have been nerve-wracking. All that time I've been waiting, and it's finally here."

Anderson is willing to wait even more if it means a positive outcome. Ten of the previous 14 winners of the Don't Count Him Out Award haven't gone on to a professional career, and only two of the four players that made a professional debut have been able to make it out of Rookie ball.

One of those players -- Kyle Stroup, the final pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft -- could be on the verge of changing that trend. Stroup is currently pitching to a 3-3 record and a 3.88 ERA for Class A Carolina in the South Atlantic League, and at 23 years old, he has a chance to progress further.

Historically speaking, the final pick is rarely a star. Only two players -- Desi Wilson (1989) and Don Wakamatsu ('84) -- taken with the final pick of the June Draft have gone on to a big league career. Both Wilson and Wakamatsu didn't sign as the last pick, though, and were later re-drafted.

Two players -- James Rice and John Powell -- didn't sign as Mr. Don't Count Him Out and were later drafted in a higher round. Anderson will try to repeat that career arc, but he said Saturday that he's proud of what he's been able to accomplish at one of the nation's best baseball programs.

"Personally, yes. Last year we won a state and a national title," said Anderson of getting the most out of his prep career. "That was great. This year, we fell kind of short a little bit and I wish we could've gone farther, but I did the best I could. I can look back now and say that I gave it all I could."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for