A shocking pick at the top of the baseball draft

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A shocking pick at the top of the baseball draft

From Comcast SportsNet
SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) -- Carlos Correa reached into his pocket as he strolled to the podium, pulled out a small Puerto Rican flag and waved it at the cheering crowd. The 17-year-old slugging shortstop had just made hometown history at the baseball draft, and the Houston Astros hope it's only the start of many big moments for the first No. 1 overall pick from Puerto Rico. "I was very surprised," Correa said Monday night at the draft site at MLB Network studios. "I was like, Is it a dream or is it true?'" Yep, it all actually happened. The handshake and hug from Commissioner Bud Selig. The big smiles in the Astros cap and jersey. The pride of an island that has produced its share of baseball royalty. "This means a lot," Correa said. "We've got a lot of good players there." And plenty have come from there, too: from Roberto Clemente and Ivan Rodriguez to Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado. While some of those signed as free agents, none has ever been the top pick in the draft. Catcher Ramon Castro had been the highest-drafted player out of Puerto Rico, going No. 17 to Houston in 1994. "I feel so excited to be the No. 1 pick," said Correa, who was congratulated by Delgado on Twitter. "I've worked so hard to be here." Correa was one of five players in attendance at the draft, but his introduction was far from the most entertaining. Texas high school outfielder Courtney Hawkins did a backflip -- after being prodded by a television reporter when a video was shown of him landing one -- a few moments after going No. 13 to the Chicago White Sox. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Hawkins, wearing a White Sox cap and jersey, spoke to general manager Kenny Williams right after he stuck his landing. "They said, Go do it,' so I went and did it," a smiling Hawkins said. "But Mr. Williams said: No more.'" Added Selig: "I hadn't seen one before, so it only goes to prove if you live long enough you'll see everything." While the NFL has a few dozen players show up for its draft, baseball has slowly made its event a place to be with the televised first round and major league representatives on hand -- just a few years after it once was held entirely by conference call. The five players in attendance this year were the most since the draft moved to MLB Network studios in 2009. "I hope we can work on that," Selig said. "The more people we can have here, the better I like it, you bet. Five is a good start, but we need to do better than that." Joining Correa and Hawkins were Oklahoma State lefty Andrew Heaney (No. 9, Marlins), Louisiana high school shortstop Gavin Cecchini (No. 12, Mets) and Washington high school catcher Clint Coulter, who went 27th to the Brewers. Heaney, a draft-eligible sophomore, had tears in his eyes after Miami selected him. Sitting with the other prospects in a makeshift dugout, Heaney headed over to shake Selig's hand and soon was wearing a Marlins cap and jersey. "That's about all that went through my mind is, Don't trip,'" a beaming Heaney said. While recent drafts lacked first-pick intrigue, Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow said the Astros didn't settle on Correa until about an hour before they went on the clock. Several mock draft lists predicted the Astros would select Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, but instead Houston made a somewhat surprising selection -- although Correa was considered one of the top five players available. Appel slid a few spots lower than projected, going to Pittsburgh at No. 8. The Pirates took UCLA righty Gerrit Cole with the No. 1 selection last year. It was the first time Houston had the top pick in the draft since 1992, when the Astros selected Phil Nevin -- passing on a young shortstop named Derek Jeter, who went five spots later to the Yankees. "I have read about that," Correa said, calling Jeter his idol as much for the New York captain's character off the field as on. "I want to be like him. He's awesome." Luhnow said the 6-foot-4, 190-pound Correa "has a chance to be a star" who could hit 20-30 home runs in the pros, whether it's as a shortstop or "ultimately maybe third base." Correa said he'd like to stay at shortstop, and he plans to use his signing bonus to help his family financially. The Santa Isabel native starred at the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy and is committed to the University of Miami, but is likely headed to Houston's farm system instead. With the second pick, Minnesota took speedy Georgia high school outfielder Byron Buxton, considered a five-tool player with a bat considered the best among all draft prospects. "Everybody talks about his athleticism," Twins scouting director Deron Johnson said. "He's got a really good swing. We think he's going to hit. We think he'll hit anywhere from No. 1 in the order to No. 3. Tremendous, tremendous upside." University of Florida catcher Mike Zunino, who has drawn comparisons to Jason Varitek for his leadership and ability to handle a pitching staff, was taken No. 3 overall by Seattle. "For me, my most important thing is I take pride in my defense," Zunino said. "Whether it's calling games, or receiving or blocking, that is what really defines me as a player." Baltimore went with LSU right-hander Kevin Gausman with the fourth pick, adding a potential ace to its system. Kansas City took University of San Francisco right-hander Kyle Zimmer, a converted third baseman, with the No. 5 overall pick. "He was the No. 1 pitcher on our board," said Lonnie Goldberg, the Royals' director of scouting. "I think everyone should know that. He's the guy we wanted." The draft opened with uncertainty about the talent -- many teams considered this crop of players weaker than recent groups -- and several significant rule changes in place. Under baseball's new collective bargaining agreement, teams will have a pool of bonus money from which to sign players. They'll also face a punitive tax and the possibility of losing draft picks if they go over the prescribed bonus total. If a player doesn't sign, the team loses the amount for that slot. Clubs now have until mid-July to sign draft picks, instead of the previous mid-August deadline. "Let's see how it works out," Selig said. "I am very optimistic. I think this will work out very well. And I think these are changes clearly helping the game." The first round and the initial compensation round were completed Monday night, with rounds 2 through 40 conducted through Wednesday via conference call.

Gostkowski named AFC special teams player of week

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Gostkowski named AFC special teams player of week

FOXBORO -- It's been an uncharacteristically erratic season for Stephen Gostkowski, but on Sunday the Patriots Pro Bowl kicker was dialed in. And his four field-goal performance against Los Angeles earned him AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. It is the second time this season and the fifth time in his career that Gostkowski has been named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, having also won the award after the first game of the season at Arizona. 

Gostkowski's missed four field goals so far this season. He hasn't missed four in a year since 2012 when he missed six field goals. He's also missed three extra points. While the Patriots were a little downcast about the inability of their offense to close out drives against the Rams, an ancillary benefit was undoubtedly Gostkowski having a day that should boost his confidence going forward. 

Belichick shares Pearl Harbor thoughts on 75th anniversary of the attack

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Belichick shares Pearl Harbor thoughts on 75th anniversary of the attack

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick's connection to the Navy has been well-chronicled in this space and others, and so it comes as little surprise that he gladly took the opportunity to discuss Pearl Harbor and its aftermath when given the opportunity during a press conference Wednesday, the 75th anniversary of the attack. 

"Yeah, pretty big day in our history," Belichick said. "Certainly in Naval history. But for me, the lesson on Pearl Harbor, and for us as a team and individually, I'd say, is not what happened on Dec. 7 -- although there was a lesson there -- but the response.

"What the response was from our nation, from our military, from our civilians, from our population, to battle the world on two fronts and win both of them. Think of what this country did under [President Franklin Delano] Roosevelt's leadership, as well as multiple military leaders, and then go fight in Europe and go fight in Southeast Asia and Japan, the response to what happened on Dec. 7, 1941 is pretty impressive.

"I remember my dad talking a lot about that, when it happened, when he found out, then when he went to the Navy and went to Great Lakes, and then eventually went to Europe and eventually went to Okinawa. It was a tough time for this country, but it was a great example of the Patriotism of our citizens, men, women, fighting together, pulling together and being victorious in a lot of different ways.

"It's special. Special day . . . Tough day for the Navy, though, but they responded. They bounced back. Battle of Midway, that was really a huge turning point. Had it not gone on the way it did. I don't know, it probably would've been a longer fight." 

Before delving into his response, Belichick mentioned that documentary filmmaker and former WJAR sports reporter Tim Gray, who once covered the Patriots, has done a great deal of work on World War II. Gray's latest documentary, "Remember Pearl Harbor," will debut on 125 PBS stations throughout the country today.