Laird Has a Major Itinerary


This is a big day for La Quinta High catcher Gerald Laird.

Laird is expected to be one of the first Orange County players chosen in the major league baseball draft, which begins at 10 a.m.. Later in the day, the Aztecs will play at Monrovia in the Southern Section Division IV semifinals.

"That's really something--to have the draft and a big game on the same day," Laird said. "But I know I'll be 100% into the game when it's time for that."

Laird is batting .647 with seven home runs and 44 runs batted in. As a junior, he hit .505 with 14 homers and 46 RBIs, and was The Times Orange County player of the year. He became the state's career hits leader this season.

Laird, who has signed with Arizona State, is being projected as the first catcher to be drafted, but he says he has no idea which team will select him.

"They've all shown interest," he said. "I guess it will come down to which one likes me the most, and which team is looking for a catcher. Both the Dodgers and Angels have shown good interest, and I wouldn't mind playing for a local team. But I just want to play."

The Angels pick 18th and the Dodgers 23rd.

Other county players expected to be chosen early are USC pitcher Seth Etherton, who played at Dana Hills High, and UCLA outfielder Eric Valent, who played at Canyon High.

Etherton was an All-American this season. Etherton was drafted in the ninth round by the St. Louis Cardinals last year but rejected that offer to return to USC for his senior season. He was picked in the 16th round by the Florida Marlins coming out of high school.

Valent, the Pac-10 Southern Division player of the year and also an All-American, had 30 home runs this season.

Outfielder Aaron Rowand is expected to be the first Cal State Fullerton player chosen. Rowand is expected to go in the top four or five rounds. He batted .372 with 16 home runs and 72 RBIs and had three homers and 11 RBIs in the South II regional.

Paul Day, who played at Capistrano Valley High and one season at Saddleback College, appears likely to be one of Long Beach State's top selections. Day was the Big West player of the year this season, and led the conference in runs batted in.

Two players who signed with Fullerton, pitcher Nick Neugebauer of Riverside Arlington and catcher/third baseman Sean Bischofberger of El Cajon, are being projected as high draft choices. Neugebauer is regarded as a potential first-round selection.

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