The visions of playing baseball in Fenway Park, Wrigley Field or Yankee Stadium begin at a young age, when children dream of daily playing in front of thousands of people.
Almost everybody realizes at some point that those dreams will forever remain embedded inside one’s imagination, while others strive to fulfill those childhood visions.
For Argyle’s Austin Aune and Ponder’s Dalton Brown, the dream of many may become much more tangible tonight in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Aune and Brown are regarded as two of the top players in the state, according to Perfect Game USA, a comprehensive online scouting service.
Aune is projected to be drafted within the first three rounds, while Brown is projected to be chosen somewhere in the middle rounds.
The 40-round draft will take place through a conference call. High school graduates, junior college players and juniors and seniors from four-year colleges comprise some of the basic categories of eligibility.
“When you’re a little kid, you dream about playing professional baseball, and the time is here,” Brown said. “I’m anxious to see what happens, and I just hope for the best.
“It’s in the scouts’ hands, but I feel like I’ve prepared myself enough, and I’ve put enough on the table to where they can make the right decision and put me where I need to be.”
Brown, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound pitcher, carries strong velocity on his fastball, touching the lower 90-mph range. He finished the season with a record of 6-3 and a 1.85 ERA with 114 strikeouts.
Aune, Argyle’s standout shortstop at 6-2, 190, finished the season with a .447 batting average, 41 RBIs and eight home runs.
Regardless of the draft’s outcome, both players can still keep their original plans of playing collegiately. Aune signed with TCU to play both football (quarterback) and baseball. Brown has a scholarship to play baseball at Arizona.
Argyle head coach Ricky Griffin said Aune makes the game look effortless. But when he first started out, Aune wasn’t completely confident in his abilities.
“When he was a freshman, he just wasn’t sure of how good of a player he was,” Griffin said. “He would show flashes of things, and you’d think, ‘Gosh, that kid has no idea how good he is.’ As each year progressed and by the time he was a senior, he understood it.”
Soon enough, almost everybody had understood what Aune was capable of producing. Griffin said scouts were in attendance at every game and many practices, watching Aune’s athleticism and proficiency at the plate.
Griffin grouped his shortstop in the same category as McKinney’s Matt Lipka, who was drafted 35th overall in the 2010 draft. Aune has worked out for multiple teams, including the Rangers, the San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds.
For Brown, the process didn’t really begin until last summer when he attended the Perfect Game National Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla. Aune was there as well, and Brown remembers looking into the stands and seeing hundreds of college and professional scouts.
When Brown was mentioned in a positive light on the showcase’s blog, he realized he might have a chance of playing professionally.
“It helped me push myself and strive for bigger goals,” Brown said. “I started throwing more in the bullpen, running, doing a lot more weight training and stuff like that to get myself prepared so I could be on this elite level with all these other guys.”
Brown has worked out for the Rangers, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays. He is the first male athlete in Ponder’s history to sign at a major-conference athletic program.
Brown’s scholarship to Arizona covers 98 percent of all expenses. With the scholarship already guaranteed, Brown is very aware of his future options.
“We’re not setting all of our cards on the table before it happens,” Brown said. “We’re going to be thankful if I get drafted, and that’s the route I want to go, but it’s not a ‘make-it or break-it’ situation. I have a good school I can go to, and I’ll just go from there.”
But if Aune and Brown have their way, this year’s draft will bring the pair closer to making those childhood dreams come true.
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .