Tampa Bay drafts LCC's Ames with No. 42 pick

2011-06-06T20:40:00Z 2011-12-31T16:16:36Z Tampa Bay drafts LCC's Ames with No. 42 pickBy Ben Zimmerman and Zach Buchanan / The Daily News Longview Daily News

Lower Columbia College's sophomore pitching ace, Jeff Ames, expected a phone call at some point during the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft.

Maybe, he hoped, in the second round.

Probably, he'd heard all season, by the end of the fifth.

"I expected the worst," said Ames, "and hoped for the best."

The Tampa Bay Rays exceeded Ames' best hopes on Monday when they picked him 42nd overall in the compensatory portion of Round 1.

"I didn't think I'd be called today," Ames said. "I really don't have words to describe it. Honestly, it is an honor. It's kind of all overwhelming."

Ex-LCC pitching coach Rob Hippi said he was not certain, but could not recall a Lower Columbia baseball player being drafted as highly as Ames. Ames was selected in the 46th round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies and in the 30th round of the 2010 draft by the Colorado Rockies, but opted to continue pitching as an amateur each time.

This time, however, Ames plans on turning pro.

"I feel like I'm ready. I want to go and play ball," he said.

Ames' high draft slot cemented his status as one of the best to ever don a Red Devils' uniform, a label he already held in Hippi's mind.

"He's the best pitcher I've ever had at Lower Columbia in terms of the stuff out of his hand," Hippi said.

Hippi didn't know what to expect in terms of Ames' draft prospects, and that was by design.

In 2003, Hippi watched another protege, former LCC hurler Kyle Aselton, go undrafted after throwing a shutout and striking out 14 in an NWAACC tournament game, "touching 95" in the process, he said.

Aselton was eventually drafted in the 11th round by the Minnesota Twins after spending a season at Oregon State. But seeing his stud not get the call a year before cured Hippi of any urge to prognosticate.

"I quit guessing about the draft right then," Hippi said.

Ames, a graduate of Skyview High School in Vancouver, is the first local pitcher to be drafted in the top five rounds since Kelso's Trevor May was tabbed in the fourth round of the 2008 draft by the Phillies, and first local to be picked in the top two rounds — at any position — since Kelso's Jeff Bailey was drafted in the second round of the 1997 draft by the Florida Marlins.

Prior to his sophomore season at LCC, Ames was named a Baseball America Preseason All-American and was ranked the best junior college prospect in Washington — and 10th best in the nation.

Ames was 8-1 with one save, a 2.05 earned run average and had 108 strikeouts in 88 innings this season for Lower Columbia. His best fastball velocity of the season was 100 mph. He allowed one earned run in three appearances spanning 15 innings during the NWAACC tournament over Memorial Day weekend. Through it all, professional scouts packed the bleachers and walkway behind home plate at David Story Field whenever he pitched.

Hippi said that Rays' scouts were "all over (Ames)."

Ames has not discussed compensation with the Devil Rays, but plans on doing so when he is finished with classes at Lower Columbia in 10 days.

"I haven't signed anything, and I have some school to take care of first," he said. "I will wait until after my last final (June 16). But I'm going to sign. There's no reason I'm not going to sign."

The 42nd pick in the 2010 draft, Drew Vettleson of Central Kitsap High School in Silverdale, Wash., received an $845,000 signing bonus from the Rays.

Copyright 2015 Longview Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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