Pitcher Ben Eckels of Davis High School was drafted in the 11th round of today's Major League Baseball Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Eckels, a 6-foot, 175-pound hard-throwing senior and the region's top arm this spring, went 7-2 this season for the Blue Devils. Davis won the Delta Valley Conference and reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I North finals.
Eckels was superb in the postseason with two victories, striking out 12 to beat Oak Ridge and downing Vacaville in fanning 11. His best pitches are a fastball that tops out at 94 mph and a slider.
Eckels pitched this season in honor of his family and also for Scott Heinig, his pitching coach last season, who was also a close friend and a tutor. Heinig died from a fall during last season. Eckels said that getting drafted would be a "dream come true" to honor Heinig and his family that has watched him compete home and away since his youth in Yolo County.
Eckels and teammate Chris Gnos were this week presented by Davis coach Dan Ariola the program's Bobby Jones MVP Award. Jones is the former Davis High star who died during his senior season from leukemia and has remained an inspiration to scores of players growing up in Davis. He also happens to be Eckels' uncle, making for a powerfully emotional presentation for his family.
Eckels told our good friend Bruce Gallaudet of The Davis Enterprise late today that he will sign and report to work this weekend, after his Davis graduation. Talk about growing up in a hurry. Graduate and report to work, armed with a uniform and baseball hat.
- By Joe Davidson