BY JEFF EVANS, Californian staff writer email@example.com
It was a whirlwind 48-hour period last week for Liberty High graduate Kirk Walker.
Only a day after he was selected in the 26th round by the Atlanta Braves in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, the Braves signed him to a contract and paid for Walker's plane ticket to Orlando, Fla.
"They were all over it," said Walker, a 6-foot, 175-pound shortstop who played four seasons at Oklahoma City University and was the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Player of the Year this season.
Walker will compete in the Gulf Coast League, a short-season rookie classification league that opens its season on Monday.
At least five other drafted players with Kern County ties have signed pro contracts.
The four picks from Cal State Bakersfield have all signed. They are right-handed pitcher Mike McCarthy, outfielder Ryan McIntyre, catcher Jeremy Rodriguez and catcher-infielder Martin Medina.
Zach Arneson, another Liberty High graduate who played at Bakersfield College, CSUB and this past season at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, signed with the New York Yankees, who selected him in the ninth round.
Walker, a .423 hitter at Oklahoma City this season, said he saw live pitching on Wednesday for the first time since he turned pro.
"It's a little different," he said. "Everyone throws harder and knows where it's going, and they have better breaking balls."
Walker, 22, said his signing bonus was $1,000 and the plane ticket.
"As a senior sign, you don't have much negotiation leverage because you can't go back to school," Walker said. "It's not about the money. It's about keep playing."
McIntyre, CSUB's highest draft pick as a 12th-rounder by the Florida Marlins, has been assigned to Jamestown, N.Y., in the New York-Pennsylvania League.
McCarthy, a 14th-round pick by the Boston Red Sox, has been assigned to Lowell, Mass., in the N.Y.-Penn. League.
Rodriguez, taken in the 16th round by San Diego, is in Peoria, Ariz., the Padres' spring training site.
Medina, a 20th-round pick by the Chicago White Sox, is one of three catchers assigned to Great Falls, Mont., in the Pioneer League.
"Right now, like everyone else, I'm trying to find a host family (to live with)," Medina said. "Right now we're all in a hotel."
Great Falls' season opens Monday.
"I might play a little third, also," Medina said. "If I'm hitting well, they'll keep my bat in the lineup."
Medina called his bonus "a decent" amount but declined to say how much.
"That's kind of a personal thing," he said. "But my main objective wasn't money. I wanted to get my pro career started."
Centennial High graduate Dusty Robinson, who was the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year for Fresno State this season and a 10th-round pick by the Oakland A's, is unsigned.
"We're still negotiating," Robinson said Wednesday afternoon. "My advisers are going through a bunch of stuff. I'm just waiting for the call."