By CLIFF BRUNT
Kevin Plawecki’s Purdue bio says his favorite athlete is Tim Tebow.
It makes perfect sense.
Like Tebow, the Purdue catcher is an underdog who has exceeded expectations. Like Tebow, Plawecki’s tireless work ethic helped him improve dramatically. And like Tebow, his humility has won over those around him.
In three years, Plawecki went from being undrafted out of high school to early professional draft pick. He was selected 35th overall by the New York Mets, the third highest selected player in Purdue history behind Sherard Clinkscales (31st in 1992) and Jermaine Allensworth (34th in 1993).
Plawecki said he answered the bio questions while Tebow was in the midst of leading the Denver Broncos on an unlikely winning streak.
œA lot of guys hate him, and he handled himself the right way, Plawecki said.
Plawecki also handles himself well.
œSomeone that is drafted this high, you would never know it necessarily by the way he acted because he was just one of the other guys on the team, a strong teammate and a strong leader, Purdue coach Doug Schreiber said. œHe didn’t walk around like he was going to be a first-round draft pick.
Cameron Perkins and Nick Wittgren were also selected, giving the Boilers three players selected in the first 300 picks of the same draft for the first time in program history.
Perkins was taken by the Philadelphia Phillies in the sixth round (218th overall) and Wittgren was selected by the Miami Marlins in the ninth round (287th overall) Tuesday.
œIt definitely is really special for them, Plawecki said. œWe’ll keep in touch with all of our teammates. I think we can all in any situation or hour lean on each other if things are going tough, or if things are going really well. I think that we all have that bond together. Absolutely, it will help with guys going from Purdue with me. Wherever they go, I wish them the best of luck.
Plawecki used his intelligence and increased his strength to improve. He was calling pitches by the middle of his freshman year, nearly unheard of for a college player. This season, Plawecki led Purdue with 20 doubles, 31 extra-base hits, a .578 slugging percentage, 26 walks and a .445 on-base percentage. He was the toughest batter to strikeout in the Big Ten and did not strike out in the final 12 games of the year.
The honors followed the numbers. He was named First Team All-Big Ten for the second year in a row, becoming only the third player in program history to be a two-time First Team honoree. He was also named the Big Ten Player of the Year and Most Outstanding Player of the conference tournament, just the fifth player since 1981 to sweep the honors in the same season. He is a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award, given to the top NCAA Division I catcher.
He credited the Purdue program for helping mold him.
œI wouldn’t be the same player I am right now if it weren’t for coming to Purdue, he said. œI couldn’t have asked for a better experience there. I couldn’t have asked for better coaches, better teammates. I spent my three years there with the greatest group of guys I could ever dream of.
Plawecki said he really didn’t think about the draft much heading into what became his final season at Purdue.
œI just play the game to play it, he said. œI don’t play to get drafted high. I love playing it. My first focus was going back to Purdue and having a great junior season with those guys, and I think we did that and proved a lot to a lot of people.
As the Big Ten tournament approached, he started to get the sense that he could be a high choice.
œI didn’t want to get my hopes up because I know how the draft can be, but obviously, I’m very happy, he said.
Plawecki said the Mets have high hopes for him.
œThey want me to really shoot through their system and hopefully be there in a few years, he said. œThey told me last (Monday) night that they were really impressed, and that hopefully we can keep improving and be there before you know it.