Rockies pick Datres in 12th round

PHOTO COURTESY UNC SPORTS INFORMATION North Carolina’s Kyle Datres celebrates during a game earlier this season. The Loyalsock graduate was drafted in the 12th round of the Major League Baseball Draft on Wednesday by the Colorado Rockies.

The sound resonated throughout the house. Even neighbors could hear it if they walked by outside.

Repeated pings rang away as Kyle Datres kept swinging at his Hit-A-Way. The quest for improvement, the desire to be the best kept pushing Datres. And he was just 8-years-old.

As far back as he can remember Datres has wanted to be a professional baseball player. Wednesday, Datres achieved that dream. The ultimate goal is to make it to Major League Baseball and now Datres has his opportunity.

The Colorado Rockies drafted Datres in the 12th round of Wednesday’s Major League Baseball Draft. The Loyalsock graduate and North Carolina third baseman is playing in the Super Regional this weekend against Stetson with the winner going to the College World Series. Whenever North Carolina’s season ends, he will fly to Denver and his professional career will begin.

“It’s the dream for every ballplayer to reach the Majors and this is just a start. I have a long road ahead,” Datres said. “It’s a lot of long days and nights ahead. There’s a lot of work to be done, but that’s the goal in the end.”

Datres was drafted later than he expected with the 366th selection and the wait was a bit frustrating. The 2015 Loyalsock graduate and two-time state champion thought he might go in Rounds 6 or 7. The draft’s second day ended following the 10th round, meaning the 22-year-old had a long night, waiting for his name to be called Wednesday.

When that moment came, Datres had no idea. North Carolina pitching coach Robert Woodard learned Datres had been selected while the Tar Heels practiced yesterday and informed Datres moments later. Not everything went to plan, but the wait was over. Now, a player defined as much by his intense work ethic as by his immense talent, has a chance to show a lot of other teams that they made a mistake.

“It was a long process the last couple days and I’m glad it worked out. I was just glad to have it over with at that point and now I can start working toward that goal,” Datres said. “Nothing against anyone else, but watching some of the names called in front of you that you have seen play and that you think you’re as good as or better than, gives you that motivation to prove people wrong.”

Where he plays this summer will be hashed out once Datres flies to Denver, but he thinks he will be playing for the Boise Hawks in the Northwest League, a Class A short-season team. Another possibility would be playing in the Pioneer League with the Grand Junction Rockies. Datres has played third base throughout his collegiate career, but also could be looked at as a second baseman.

Datres likely would have drafted following his sophomore season a year ago but was not due to signability concerns. He strengthened his draft stock by having a strong season in the Cape Cold League last summer and hitting a team-high .343 for North Carolina, the country’s No. 6-ranked team. Datres’ average is fourth highest in the Atlantic Coast Conference and he hit his sixth home run in a North Carolina’s regional-clinching 19-11 win against Houston last Saturday. His numbers have improved in each of the last two seasons and Datres is a career .292 hitter at North Carolina with 16 home runs and 108 RBIs.

As exciting as starting his professional career is, Datres is hoping to delay that debut as long as possible. North Carolina is two wins from reaching the College World Series in Omaha. The Tar Heels host Stetson in a best-of-3 series which starts Friday. Game 1 will be televised on ESPN 2 at 11 a.m.

“I was kind of glad to get the whole professional thing out of the way and focus on the weekend ahead because it’s something special so we definitely don’t want to take that for granted,” Datres said. “We have a lot of work to do and a long way to go to get ready for a big weekend ahead.”

Datres hopes his season ends with a national championship. When the college journey ends, a new one begins. As a young boy, Datres had his future laid out. He never stopped working to reach this point and he certainly is not going to slow down now.

Every stop along the way has provided a new challenge. At Loyalsock, Datres immediately started as a freshman and helped the Lancers win 2013 and ’14 state championships, along with 91 scholastic games. In his first game as a Tar Heel, Datres hit third against UCLA. He has helped North Carolina improve its win total in each of the last two seasons.

Now the biggest challenge yet awaits Datres.

“It’s just getting started all over again,” Datres said. “Coming into North Carolina I had to prove myself all over again. Now it’s an even playing field and I have to prove myself again and compete against the best. I don’t think it’s hit me yet. Once the college season ends and I get out on the road it probably will. Right now it’s kind of hard to take it all in.”