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For the first time since 2003, Tampa Bay had two first-round picks in the Major League Baseball first-year player draft.
Seven minutes after Jesuit ace Lance McCullers went to the Houston Astros, King first baseman Keon Barnum was chosen by the Chicago White Sox at No. 48. The slotted bonus for that pick is $1,052,500.
“It’s very exciting, I’m so excited,” said Barnum, as he let out a sigh of relief. “My heart is racing. I didn’t get a call; I saw my name, and my heart just dropped.”
Barnum, ranked the 155th-best prospect by Baseball America, watched the draft with close family and friends. His father, Keith, learned of his son’s status few minutes before the announcement.
“I knew five minutes before his name got called,” said the elder Barnum. “Very excited. I’m an extremely proud dad.
For the second year in a row, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Barnum hit over .400 for King. He also hit five home runs, five doubles and two triples to go along with 27 runs scored and 15 RBIs.
Barnum, the fourth of six kids — Chris (24), Keith (23), Chelsea (20), Keon (19), Kobe (13) and Neah (9 months) — had signed to play with Miami. His potential to hit for power, though, wooed the White Sox.
“Barnum gets loft and backspin on his swing. He’s probably always been one of the bigger kids on his team, and he’s learned to do that,” ESPN’s Jason A. Churchill said before the draft. “He’s also pretty athletic for a first baseman.”
It was his now-coveted size that forced Barnum to focus on baseball. Growing up, he was too heavy to make the weight limit for youth football. Instead, he grew up to be the first Hillsborough County first baseman to hear his name called in the first round.