Titans freshman Keynan Middleton has been given an opportunity that most collegiate athletes only dream of: the opportunity to play Major League Baseball.
Middleton was selected by the Los Angeles Angels with their second pick, the 95th overall, in the June 7 MLB amateur draft.
The pick came as a surprise to Middleton, who said he did not think he would be drafted so early.
“I talked to my adviser a little bit and we were thinking more fourth- or fifth-round — fourth at the best, fifth at the worst,“ Middleton said. “But then the Angels popped up.”
Middleton is the first Titan to be drafted since Kenny Brock in 2004, and he is the highest-drafted player in Titans history.
He is a unique selection because he comes from a community college. In the early rounds of the draft, teams tend to favor either high-school players because of the potential they show or players who come from a four-year university because they are used to facing a high level of competition.
Middleton was one of this year’s few highly coveted community college prospects. Only two other players from community colleges were selected before him.
Pitcher Cody Reed was selected by the Kansas City Royals 46th overall and catcher Victor Cartidini was picked 65th overall by the Atlanta Braves.
Titans head baseball coach Josh Blunt said one of the reasons teams were so interested in Middleton is his natural athletic ability.
“He’s a really special athlete. He has a low to mid-90s arm. He’s really raw. They probably think he’s super-projectable down the road,” Blunt said.
In his only year at Lane, Middleton starred on both the baseball field and the basketball court for the Titans.
“He’s probably one of four kids in the entire country that can play basketball and baseball. … Most of the two-sport athletes are track and football, or football and baseball,” Blunt said.
He averaged 11 points and 4.6 rebounds per game as the Titans’ starting shooting guard during basketball season. In spring, Middleton transitioned to the baseball mound, where he was named Second Team All-Southern Region, posting a 3.42 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 42 innings of work.
Because he was able to play both baseball and basketball at Lane, the choice for Middleton to give up his sophomore season is not an easy one.
“I don’t regret giving (basketball) up. I knew I was gonna have to give it up at some point. But at the same time, it’s still really hard,” Middleton said.
Players selected in the MLB Draft have until July 12 to either sign with their respective teams or retain their amateur status and return to school. Although he has not yet signed a professional contract with the Angels, it seems as though Middleton has already made up his mind.
“Yeah, I am for sure. There’s no doubt I’m going to sign,” he said. “I enjoyed Lane and had a lot of fun this year, but I know I have an opportunity to do something special with baseball.”