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Pinder expects to be drafted next month, until then he and the Hokies have some unfinished business.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Virginia Tech’s Chad Pinder (5) is batting .330 with 11 doubles, four homers and 37 RBIs this season. He was drafted 71st by the Oakland Athletics on Thursday.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Virginia Tech’s Chad Pinder (left) and Tyler Horan (right) talk in the visitors’ dugout before a game at Radford on Tuesday. The Hokies are ranked No. 25 by Baseball America.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Virginia Tech’s Chad Pinder warms up prior to playing against the Highlanders on Tuesday in Radford. Pinder moved to shortstop from third to shore up Tech’s porous defense.
Thursday, May 2, 2013
BLACKSBURG - Only seven players in Virginia Tech history have been chosen in the top five rounds of the major league draft.
Next month, Chad Pinder will likely become No. 8.
But the junior infielder said he is not preoccupied with his professional future. He is more concerned with getting the Hokies into the NCAA baseball tournament.
"All those [draft] distractions can sometimes block your vision of what you're trying to do," Pinder said. "You always hear the buzz, but you've got to try to tune it out.
"It's something you've always dreamed about since you were a kid, going to play professional baseball. Ever since you picked up a glove, picked up a bat, that's what you want to do. You watch major league baseball games on TV as a kid and you're like 'I want to be like that guy one day.' It's exciting. But right now I'm more excited about us, our chances to make the postseason."
Pinder is batting .330 with 11 doubles, four homers and 37 RBIs this season.
"He's one of the better college position players in the country," said a major league scout who asked to remain anonymous. "It would be a surprise if he wasn't drafted in the top five rounds.
"He drives the ball to all fields. He's a good, solid third base prospect. He's got the tools to play in the big leagues, no doubt."
Tech coach Pete Hughes also expects Pinder to be drafted in the first five rounds next month. Before the season, Baseball America rated Pinder the 29th-best junior in the country.
Prospects sometimes spend their junior years focused on the draft, but Hughes said that has not been the case with Pinder.
"He's a team-first guy," Hughes said. "I had to tell him at Radford, 'Stop diving for balls that you can't get to because you're risking injury to yourself.' We're playing down in Cary, N.C., and he's running down a foul ball ... and he lays out on the c inder warning track and rips up his arms. Guys that are caught up in the draft don't dive because they think they're going to injure themselves.
"Guys that don't have great [junior] years are consumed with being a prospect and all the noise that comes with that. Chad's consumed with being a player, not a prospect."
Pinder is expected to play third base in pro ball, but he no longer plays that position for the Hokies (28-18, 11-13 ACC).
For last Saturday's doubleheader sweep of Virginia, Hughes decided to shore up his defense by moving the 6-foot-2, 192-pound Pinder from third base to shortstop and shifting error-prone shortstop Alex Perez to second base. They remained at their new positions for Tuesday's win at Radford and will stay there the rest of the season.
Pinder was a shortstop in high school, when he helped Poquoson win two Group AA titles. But he had not played shortstop for the Hokies until last weekend.
"It was fun to be back there," Pinder said. "I just love being in the infield - anywhere."
Hughes said he put Pinder at shortstop because he has become a "premier" defensive player.
"Physically and athletically, I knew he could handle it," Hughes said. "His feet and his hands are really good and he's explosive with his first step. Mentally, I definitely knew he could handle it with everything he's been dealing with this year as far as being a prospect."
Pinder, who grew up in the Tidewater area, would not be the first member of his family to be drafted.
His father, Chris Pinder, was a minor league pitcher in the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians organizations. He was drafted out of VCU by the Orioles in the 15th round in 1987. He pitched in the Appalachian League and in the Carolina League during his pro career.
He then spent a lot of time pitching to Chad.
"I've been throwing balls since he was 1 or 2 with the little plastic bat - all the way to now. I still throw to him," Chris Pinder said.
Chad Pinder committed to Virginia Tech the summer after his sophomore year of high school, accepting the first partial scholarship offer to come his way. He weighed 30 pounds less than he does now.
"Any time you see a kid with good baseball skills who is tall and skinny, that means he's got upside physically to grow," Hughes said.
Pinder played right field for the Hokies as a freshman, when he hit .317. He moved to third base as a sophomore, when he batted .325 with 22 doubles, seven homers and 37 RBIs. The public relations major also made the ACC all-academic team for the second straight year.
He played in pain for most of his sophomore season. It was not until season's end that he finally got a diagnosis - a sports hernia. He put off surgery to repair the tear in his abdomen so he could play in the Cape Cod League, the most prestigious summer circuit for college players.
Last July, when he was among that league's leaders in RBIs, the pain got so bad that he put an early end to his summer season so he could have the surgery.
This season, Pinder is part of a talented lineup. The Hokies, who are ranked No. 25 by Baseball America and are No. 13 in the NCAA's RPI, are a safe bet to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010. Tech is the only team in the country this season that has won two series against foes ranked in the top five in the polls.
In March, Tech won a series against then-No. 4 Florida State. Tech won the opener 3-2, a game that ended when Pinder recorded an unassisted double play by catching a line drive and tagging out a runner.
"I don't think I've smiled like that in a long time," Pinder said.
Last weekend, Tech won a series against then-No. 5 UVa for the first time in four years.
"It's definitely huge for us confidence-wise, and building our resume," Pinder said. "And being a Hokie, you always have that pride of wanting to beat Virginia."
Pinder was not drafted out of high school. But three years later, he has become a highly touted prospect for a team seemingly headed for the NCAAs.
Tech "developed me," Pinder said. "They got me in the weight room. They got me better in the field, at hitting. I just blossomed here."
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