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Astros sign top pick DeShields

Astros sign top pick DeShields

HOUSTON -- Being the son of a former Major Leaguer played a significant part in the Houston Astros making Delino DeShields their No. 1 choice in the June First-Year Player Draft according to Bobby Heck, the Astros' director of scouting.

The Astros announced the signing of DeShields, the eighth overall pick in the 2010 Draft, on Thursday afternoon.

"It makes it a little bit easier," Heck said of DeShields' bloodlines. "We just gave him a tour of the clubhouse. He's very comfortable being there. The fear factor of the unknown is put aside, because he's been in a Major League clubhouse. He surely won't be in awe of it.

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"When you arrive in the big leagues, for a rookie, it could be overwhelming. He's able to handle that professionally at a very young age."

DeShields Sr. played 13 seasons in the Majors from 1990-2002 with Montreal, the Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis, Baltimore and the Chicago Cubs.

He was known for his speed, with 483 career stolen bases to go with a .268 average. He stole 56 bases for Montreal in 1991 and 55 for St. Louis in 1997. He hit .289 as a rookie for the Expos and his career high of .296 for Baltimore in 2000. He reached his career best in doubles with 43 for the Orioles in 2000.

Now 41, DeShields Sr. could not attend Thursday's press conference because he had to work. He manages Billings (Mont.) in the Cincinnati Reds organization in the rookie Pioneer League.

"I remember seeing my dad play," DeShields said. "I have a good memory from when he was with Baltimore to ending up with the Chicago Cubs. He told me speed is a weapon.

"He always had energy on the field. He always came out ready to play. He gave 100 percent every day. I remember him stealing bases. He hit a walkoff home run that I'll never forget [watching on TV]."

Lincoln Martin, who scouts Georgia for the Astros, said that DeShields resembles his dad.

"As a stolen base kind of guy, the speed, there's some similarities there," Martin said. "Delino hits right-handed and I think he may end up having a little more pop in his bat. They're both offensive players. Delino's an outgoing, bright kid. I think his dad is the same.

"When you talk to a guy who played that many years in the big leagues, you learn some things about the game that it may take others a long time to learn. Being a big leaguer's son, you could see the makings of a guy who had a chance to be really good."

DeShields Jr. will receive a signing bonus of $2.15 million, a person close to negotiations told MLB.com. The Astros will control his rights for seven years.

"I never thought I could be 17 and be in this position right now," he said. "It's been a long process [with the negotiations]. I'm glad to get it over with and get playing. I knew from the beginning I was going to sign. I wasn't that concerned."

The Astros drafted DeShields as a second baseman, the same position his father played in the Majors, despite the younger DeShields playing outfield in high school at Woodward Academy in College Park, Ga.

"I played the infield my whole life, since I was eight," DeShields said. "So I'm real comfortable with the infield. My dad taught me to play second base. I was going into high school playing second base. But they ended up needing me in center field. I'm ready to make the transition [to second] and I don't think it will be a problem."

DeShields hit .415 as a senior with nine homers, 40 RBIs and 29 stolen bases.

His father played basketball well enough to be recruited by major Division I schools and attended Villanova.

DeShields Jr. was a star running back and had offers from Georgia Tech, Mississippi, Central Florida, Connecticut and Stanford. He said he probably would have signed with Connecticut for football if he hadn't been taken so high in the Draft.

"I really wanted to go to college and play football," DeShields said. "But it didn't work out the way I wanted it to. A lot of schools were backing off of me because of the Draft. Baseball was the way to go. I was destined to play it. This is what I was born to do."

Honestly, DeShields didn't anticipate being drafted as high as No. 8.

"Draft day was entertaining," he said. "There were like 30-40 people at my house. We had a big party outside. When they called my name everybody jumped on me and was yelling. That was really exciting.

"I wasn't even paying attention to the TV. I was looking down at my phone. They called my name and chaos happened."

Martin first saw DeShields play as eighth grader.

"You could tell that he was talented," Martin said. "He always hit and he could really run. The swing was good, he had strength. He was like the best 12-year-old in the country."

"He's an offensive player who brings impact," Heck said. "He has a combination of speed and power."

There is no timetable for DeShields to reach the Majors. But with Houston in a rebuilding mode, there shouldn't be any reason to rush him to the Astros before he's ready.

"Every player sets his own expressway, whether it's the fast one or the level by level one," Heck said. "When's he ready to come here, we'll do it.

"There's not an urgency. He may be fast tracked. But there's a fine line between being fast tracked and being rushed. You don't want to rush players. When you bring players to the big league, you want them to be able to stay. We're not looking at him as our next second baseman or next center fielder. Hopefully, there's a guy or two in between.

"He could definitely play the outfield in the pros. If you take his type of offensive package and put it at second base, you have one of the special ones at that position. With his athleticism and genetics it's something for us to explore [him playing second]."

DeShields is scheduled to report to Kissimmee, Fla., on Friday to join the Astros' Gulf Coast League club for approximately one week before being assigned to Greeneville, Tenn., of the rookie Appalachian League.

Gene Duffey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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