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Tyler Austin, Cito Culver among several Yankees prospects living a dream

2013 MLB Draft could turn another lifelong fan into a Yankees player
06/06/2013 11:53 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Cito Culver is one of many Yankees prospects who grew up as a fan of the team.(AP)
With 27 World Championships and one of the richest histories in the game, the New York Yankees are arguably the most recognizable franchise in sports, and as such, there are Yankees fans in all corners of the globe, including within their own organization.

Come Thursday, the Yankees will make four picks in the first two rounds of the MLB Draft, and they will make 37 more over the next two days – any or all of which could be a young man who grew up dreaming of the day he would hear his name called by the Bombers and get to put on the pinstripes.

It could be someone like 18-year-old LHP Rob Kaminsky, a projected first-rounder who led St. Joseph HS in Montvale, N.J., to the Non-Public State Championship Game this spring and already has a team connection – family advisor Casey Close also happens to be Derek Jeter’s agent – or it could be a boy who grew up surfing in the O.C., playing in the shadow of the Angels and Dodgers but dreaming of the day he got to play on the opposite coast.

If the fandom matches, it matters not where that gentleman comes from, only that he’s joining a handful of Baby Bombers who themselves remember their own draft day for the very same reason.

Geographically, Charleston RiverDogs shortstop Cito Culver is one of those. Growing up in Irondequoit, N.Y., a small town north of Rochester, Culver idolized fellow shortstop Derek Jeter – who was drafted roughly three months before Culver was born – and, like the Yankees Captain, found himself the top draft pick of the Yankees when he was selected No. 32 overall in 2010.

“The day I got drafted was a dream come true, the best day of my life,” Culver told YESNetwork.com during Spring Training. “I try not to look at that because I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it’s exciting to know that someday I could be in the position of playing shortstop for the Yankees.”

Trenton Thunder outfielder Tyler Austin, who was drafted 12 rounds after Culver in 2010, also grew up a Yankees fan. He may seem like a (very) misplaced one, having grown up roughly 25 miles outside Atlanta in Conyers, Georgia, but his fandom proves that blood is indeed often thicker than water.

“My dad is a diehard Braves fan, but my grandmother was always a Yankees fan so I bought into the Yankees from going there and watching games with her when I could,” Austin told YESNetwork.com. “I loved the way the team played, and they’ve always played that way.”

Austin was barely five when the Yankees beat the Braves, but he eschewed the norm of what was a Chipper Jones town and fell in love with a budding Yankees superstar.

“I modeled myself a bit after Derek Jeter, he was always my favorite player growing up and he plays the game the right way, giving 110 percent all the time,” Austin said. “You see what he does, and it’s amazing to watch.”

So, when his name was called 48 hours or so after Culver’s, the gentlemanly Southerner was ecstatic to be a true Yankee.

“It’s unbelievable. When I got a phone call saying it was the Yankees, there were so many emotions that I didn’t know what to think,” Austin said. “It was fantastic for my whole family, my friends, and being here is a dream come true.”

While he won’t necessarily “replace” Jeter per se, perhaps someday soon, Austin will get his shot in the Majors and be able to play alongside his idol – or, at the very least, get to chat.

“I didn’t get to sit down with him this spring, but the first time he said hello to me I couldn’t even say his name,” Austin said. “Hopefully one day I’ll get to sit down and talk to him and pick his brain, not even just about baseball.”

As for Charleston outfielder Taylor Dugas, who grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana, his fandom comes simply from a family connection – his parents are close friends with “Louisiana Lightning” himself, Ron Guidry – and called his draft moment in 2012 “very special” because of that.

Any surprise who his favorite player was growing up?

“Derek Jeter was definitely my favorite player growing up. Something I’ve always liked about him is that he’s a winner and a great teammate,” Dugas said. “He’s the Captain of the Yankees and he’s been through so much…he’s the definition of a true winner and I’ve tried to observe things about him, because I feel that if you try to do things like he does, you’re on the right track.”

Regardless of whether any of the Yankees draftees are already part of the Universe or not, take it from one of the organization’s top prospects – being drafted at any point by the Yankees will make it worth the wait.

“This organization is the best in the world by far, and I wouldn’t want to be with anyone else. The coaches and everyone in the organization are top notch guys,” Austin said. “Like I said, this is a dream come true.”

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