September 23, 2014

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Cubs draft Highland’s Ben Klafczynski

GRANGER TWP. — The Windy City picked up the most prolific slugger in Medina County history around 5:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Kent State outfielder Ben Klafczynski was selected in the 20th round of the MLB Draft by the Chicago Cubs, marking the 2007 Highland High graduate’s entry into professional baseball.

Ben Klafczynski

Ben Klafczynski

The 21-year-old becomes the 13th county player selected since the common draft was instituted in 1965.

“It feels great,” the excited Klafczynski said. “I’m a little bit relieved and excited at the same time. I’m ready to get started.”

Multiple teams called Klafczynski on Tuesday morning, but none of them was the Cubs, which caught him off-guard when his name was called.

The National League club told him they will call back after the draft to negotiate a contract and assign Klafczynski to a minor-league affiliate.

“I didn’t find out until they picked me,” Klafczynski said. “I don’t know if they saw me on the board or what. They hadn’t told me anything beforehand. It was kind of a surprise.

“I filled out their questionnaires and stuff and they came and scouted our whole team. They weren’t just one of the teams who called me (Tuesday morning).”

After not being drafted as a junior, the left-handed-hitting Klafczynski returned to the Golden Flashes and put forth a very strong season that increased his draft stock.

Lauded by scouts for his raw power and “plus” throwing arm, the 6-foot, 200-pounder hit a team-leading .368 with 10 home runs, 57 RBI, 19 doubles and 56 runs. He was a named first-team All-Mid-American Conference, along with being selected to the All-Austin Region Team after helping Kent State come within one game of the Super Regionals.

Klafczynski finished his career Monday as the school’s all-time leader in total bases (520) and runs (211). He was also second in at-bats, hits, doubles and RBI, and set a season mark with 27 doubles as a junior.

Klafczynski joined teammates Andrew Chafin (first round, Diamondbacks), Kyle McMillen (fourth, White Sox), Travis Shaw (ninth, Red Sox) and roommate Kyle Hallock (10th, Astros) as Golden Flashes selected in this year’s draft.

In his eyes, however, being one semester away from getting his degree in sports management with an emphasis on the PGA club professional track is just as important.

“I’m real proud of accomplishing both,” he said. “It means a lot to me that I was able to go that far (in the NCAA Tournament) my senior year and go out like that. I’m just blessed for that opportunity to do that with the team I was a part of. We had a great group of guys and we were like family.”

At Highland, Klafczynski helped the Hornets reach their first regional in school history as he pitched a one-hitter in the 2007 Lorain Division II District championship.

That was the least of his accomplishments.

The center fielder and Gazette MVP was named first-team Louisville Slugger All-American after hitting .613 with 12 home runs and 51 RBI. He remains the Hornets’ career leader in batting average (.416), home runs (30), RBI (125), hits (126), runs (100), doubles (30), triples (7) and walks (66).

Now, Klafczynski will get his shot at reaching the pinnacle of baseball.

“Get to the big leagues, man. That’s it,” he said. “I’m going there with the goal to get to the highest level I can. All I can do is work as hard as I can and hopefully it’s enough. I just want to control what I can control.”

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.