TAMPA — Kenny Wilson spent his senior baseball season with professional scouts critiquing the Sickles centerfielder's bat, glove and athleticism — and especially his speed.
Compliments flowed, and a scholarship offer from UF coach Kevin O'Sullivan arrived. Wilson still didn't know where he might be taken in MLB's first-year player draft. The buzz was he could be selected anywhere in the top five rounds. Then one scout gave him the ultimate compliment.
"He told me, 'Kenny, I've got to tell you. You're the best centerfielder in the state of Florida,' " Wilson said. "Hearing that put me in the state of mind that I could do this, and that this could be a big day."
When draft day arrived Thursday, Wilson was surprised to find out that statement was indeed true. Wilson was the 10th outfielder — and first from the state of Florida — selected in the draft, going to the Blue Jays in the third round with the 63rd overall pick.
"I had heard a lot of things and I had some big expectations, but when I woke up today I had to bring myself down to earth," Wilson said. "I didn't want to get my hopes up."
The 6-foot, 165-pound Wilson, a Times All-Hillsborough County first-teamer, led the county with 26 stolen bases and 37 runs scored. He hit .400 from the leadoff spot with eight doubles, one triple and two homers, driving in 14 runs.
He was the only bay area high school player selected on the first day, which went six rounds.
He signed to play college ball at UF, but Wilson said he will likely turn pro. As a mid second-round pick, he is likely to receive a signing bonus of around $650,000.
"The chance to get a college education was one of the greatest things to happen to me and my family at the time," Wilson said. "But I've always wanted to play professional baseball, and if I was to turn that down and go to up there and I got hurt or something and I never got that opportunity again, I think I'd go crazy."
Of all the MLB teams, Wilson didn't expect to get a call from the Blue Jays. He attended a Yankees predraft workout at Steinbrenner Field, and even traveled to Atlanta and Minnesota to work out for the Braves and Twins. Toronto's scouting of him was minimal.
"Their scout saw me hit a round of batting practice," Wilson said. "Maybe 500 cuts; so that took me by surprise."