Mike Tauchman hopes he is on a Rockie road toward a big-league baseball career.
It is a path the former Fremd High School baseball and football star has pursued for years. And it took a turn in the right direction last week when Tauchman was chosen by the Colorado Rockies in the 10th round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft after a stellar four-year career at Bradley University.
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"Baseball has always been my favorite sport," Tauchman said earlier this week, a few hours before he signed his contract with the Rockies to start his pro career with the Class A Tri-City Dust Devils in Pasco, Wash. "I've loved playing and watching baseball since I was 4 years old and I've dreamed of playing in the major leagues.
"In my senior year of high school it started becoming a goal, and that's what I've dedicated the last four or five years to, making it a reality to get the opportunity to play professional baseball."
Tauchman, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound, left-handed hitting outfielder, led NCAA Division I in hitting at .425 and had 16 doubles, 5 triples and 41 RBI. The four-year starter at Bradley was also 28-for-30 in stolen bases and had 8 assists.
He earned second-team Louisville Slugger All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball magazine and was a second-team All-American pick by Baseball America and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Tauchman also joined former Major League pitcher Mike Dunne as the only players in Bradley history to win Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year honors.
"It was all kind of overshadowed by the season we had," Tauchman said of Bradley's records of 17-32 overall and 2-19 in the MVC with a 16-game league losing streak. "I would have preferred to have a better last year than we did as a team. That was tough.
"Individually, I never thought leading the country in hitting would be something I'd be able to do. Winning the (MVC) Player of the Year was a goal the last couple of years and I thought if I could put together a nice little run that it was possible."
It helped Tauchman that he was fully recovered from a hamstring injury that slowed him early in his junior year. He said the Rockies drafted him as a right fielder but he can play all three outfield spots and first base.
"The college season is 55 games and it's a grind, but now you double and almost triple that," said Tauchman, who graduated from Bradley with a business management and administration degree. "That means you have to be that much more focused and take care of yourself that much better.
"The benefit is I played in a league with a pretty high quality of competition, and that's going to pay off."
And the ultimate prize would be playing at offense-friendly Coors Field in Denver.
"That's every hitter's dream," Tauchman said.
More draft news: Clint Terry (Fremd) signed with the Brewers after being chosen in the 18th round out of Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound junior left-hander was 11-1 with a 1.51 ERA, 71 strikeouts and and just 21 walks and 65 hits allowed in 83 2/3 innings as Lee finished third in the NAIA World Series.
Terry will pitch for the Brewers' Rookie League team in Arizona. He was also taken in the 36th round by the Giants two years ago out of the College of San Mateo (Calif.).
• Illinois State shortstop Brett Kay (St. Viator) was picked in the 20th round by the San Francisco Giants. The Missouri Valley Conference's Defensive Most Valuable Player hit .301 with 3 homers, 9 doubles and 35 RBI and was 10-for-11 in stolen bases to help his team win the MVC regular-season title.
• West Virginia junior third baseman Ryan Tuntland (Maine West) was taken in the 29th round by the Giants. Tuntland hit .325 with 9 doubles, 3 homers and 36 RBI after two impressive seasons at Oakton College and has until July 12 to decide whether to sign a pro contract or return to school for his senior year.
• Barrington catcher Ryan Lidge was taken in the 40th round by the Red Sox. The lefty-hitting Lidge, who has also signed to play at Notre Dame, was a Daily Herald Northwest all-area team co-captain after hitting .381 with 8 homers, 8 doubles and 38 RBI for the Mid-Suburban West champions.
Hoosier helpers: Local products Ricky Alfonso (Barrington) and Brian Wilhite (St. Viator) have helped Indiana in its historic first trip to the College World Series, which begins Saturday when it faces Louisville in Omaha, Neb.
Alfonso, a sophomore outfielder, has appeared in 31 games and is hitting .237 with 10 RBI. Wilhite, a freshman infielder, has also played in 31 games and is hitting .292 (7-for-24) while committing only 3 errors.
Sophomore and second-year starting first baseman Sam Travis (Providence), who played against Prospect in the 2011 Class 4A state semifinals, is hitting .313 with 10 homers and 56 RBI. The Hoosiers are the first Big Ten team to make the College World Series since Michigan in 1984.
All-American honors for Walsh: Oakton College sophomore outfielder-pitcher Joe Walsh (Palatine) was named an NJCAA Division II first-team All-American selection. Walsh hit .412 with 7 homers, 26 doubles and 51 RBI and was 7-3 with a 3.34 ERA on the mound.
Walsh has been recovering from getting hit in the head with a line drive while he was pitching in the title game of the NJCAA Division II Region IV sectional tournament May 12.
Marty Maciaszek is a freelance columnist for the Daily Herald who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org