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Baseball: Kenny Long, Ray Hunnicutt taken on last day of draft

Dundee-Crown graduate Kenny Long seen here pitching for Illinois State was taken by HoustAstros 22nd round First-Year Player Draft Wednesday.

Dundee-Crown graduate Kenny Long, seen here pitching for Illinois State, was taken by the Houston Astros in the 22nd round of the First-Year Player Draft on Wednesday. | Photo courtesy of ISU Athletic Communications Office

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Updated: June 10, 2012 10:59PM

Kenny Long and Ray Hunnicutt are at different stages of their baseball careers, but both can say they were among the 1,238 players selected in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft.

Long, a 2007 Dundee-Crown graduate who recently wrapped up a successful pitching career at Illinois State, was selected Wednesday afternoon by the Houston Astros in the 22nd round with the 669th overall pick.

“Once you finally get that call it’s really a great feeling,” Long said. “It’s something I’ve been working at for pretty much my whole life. It really hasn’t sunk in yet that I’ll be playing professional baseball, but it’s something I’m so honored to do.”

Hunnicutt, who just wrapped up his senior season at Burlington Central, had to wait a little longer before having his name called. The standout center fielder was taken by the Baltimore Orioles with the 1,212th pick in the 40th and final round of the three-day draft.

“I was kind of surprised,” Hunnicutt said. “I was told it’s a possibility I’d get drafted, but I didn’t think it was very likely since I’m in high school and probably going to college. But when it happened I was very excited.”

Long expects to finalize contract talks within the next few days, at which time he’ll find out where to report for rookie ball.

The 6-foot, 165-pound lefty was a perfect 13-for-13 in save opportunities for the Redbirds this spring as he posted a team-best 2.29 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 51 innings. He was a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference First Team selection and leaves Illinois State as the program’s all-time leader in career saves with 28.

Long, 23, is studying to be a high school or middle school educator, but his baseball duties kept him from serving as a student teacher and he still has a few courses to complete in the fall. For now, though, he’s eager to make his mark as a left-handed relief pitcher, which in baseball is a specialized role that always seems to be in demand.

“I’ll make the most of the opportunity,” Long said. “I’ll try to stretch it out as long as I can, keep climbing the ranks and see where it takes me.”

Long will join an Astros organization that already includes 2006 Hampshire graduate Jake Goebbert, who currently plays in the outfield for the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks.

Long also becomes the third member of Dundee-Crown’s 2006 team to be drafted into the professional ranks, joining 2007 grad Elliot Soto and 2006 grad Ryan Court. Soto is a shortstop with the Tennessee Smokies, a Double-A affiliate of the Cubs, while Court is playing for the South Bend Silver Hawks, a Class-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“You don’t see that very often with three guys being drafted off the same high school team, especially up north,” said Long, who played college ball with Court at Illinois State.

Hunnicutt’s future remains undecided as he ponders whether to enroll in college or begin playing professional baseball. He hasn’t committed to a college program yet but is entertaining offers to play at several schools, most notably Augustana College, Concordia University and Judson University.

“Education is big for me because I know anything can happen in sports,” Hunnicutt said. “If you get an education, you can always go out and find a job and you’ll be fine.”

Hunnicutt, 18, landed IHSBCA Class 3A All-State honors as a junior and helped lead Burlington Central to its first sectional championship as a senior. The Rockets bowed out of the Class 3A playoffs with a supersectional loss to LaSalle-Peru on Monday.

This spring Hunnicutt finished with a .317 batting average, three home runs, 19 RBI and 41 runs scored. The 5-11, 180-pounder was also a perfect 34-for-34 on stolen base attempts, and he plans on using his selection in the draft as an inspiration regardless of which path he takes to continue his baseball career.

“This reminds me that I can do something I’ve dreamed about doing my whole life,” Hunnicutt said. “It’s an inspiration to not give up if I struggle and to keep going at it because eventually it could pay off.”

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