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Blue Jays tab UNC's Adams
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06/04/2002 1:09 pm ET 
Blue Jays tab UNC's Adams
Middle infielder a line-drive hitter
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com

Russ Adams knows he has a long way to go before reaching the Majors, but he's eager to start the journey. (2002 UNC Baseball)

Blue Jays'
round-by-round picks

TORONTO -- Though the organization's acknowledged biggest need is pitching, the Blue Jays went with the proverbial best player available in Tuesday's First-Year Player Draft. Toronto selected sweet-swinging middle infielder Russ Adams with the No. 14 pick. Adams, a left-handed batter from Laurinberg, N.C., is the complete package: He can capably field at three positions, hit for a high average and lead off in any lineup.

"He's a skillful middle infielder. He's got a good arm and good instincts on the bases," said Tim Wilken, Toronto's Vice President of Baseball Operations. "He likes to hit the ball in the gap. There's potential there to be more of a power hitter. He's still got a little more to grow in his frame."

"I can't really describe the excitement I'm feeling right now," Adams said during a conference call with Toronto media. "I'm just excited to have an opportunity to play in the big leagues. Toronto is where I want to be in the next few years, without any reservations."

In the days leading up to the draft, Toronto had talked about adding pitching depth to the minor-league system. The Jays opted to take care of that later in the draft because Adams was too good a player to pass up. He played his college ball at North Carolina, where he was recognized as one of the best players in the country.

Russ Adams

School:
U. North Carolina
Position: SS   B/T: L/R
H: 6-1   W: 175
Born: 08/30/1980   Class: 4YR

Scouting report:
Slender build. Lively body, similar to Nomar Garciaparra. Puts ball in play. Gap power, hits occasional long ball. Quick release. Feet and hands work properly.

Scouting video:
56k | 300k

"He's a breath of fresh air. It's nice to talk to kids when the number one thing on their list is to play baseball," said JP Ricciardi, Toronto's general manager. "You can throw all the money out the window. Eventually, all it comes down to is what your desire is to make yourself a better player. We're trying to get good kids and good people. I think we got a real good one."

Adams was named First-Team All-ACC after his sophomore season, the first Tar Heels second baseman to earn that honor since 1979. He backed that up with a summer session in the wood-bat Cape Cod League, turning some heads while he was there.

He hit a three-run homer in the league's All-Star Game and was named the best professional prospect. That's high praise -- the Cape Cod League is packed with prospects, most of them players with national reputations at Division I schools.

"I had a couple of big games up there, some good times," Adams said. "I went up there with those intentions. I didn't just go up there to say that I played in the Cape Cod League. I went up there with a purpose, and that was to make myself better. Fortunately, I was able to do that."

As a result, before this season, he was selected as a First-Team All-American. He lived up to that lofty billing, as he hit .370 with seven homers and 55 RBIs. He also stole 45 bases, showing another impressive offensive element. Some scouts have compared him to Nomar Garciaparra, in that he has a consistent line-drive batting stroke with developing power.

In his career, Adams has played third base, shortstop and second base, where he has spent the most time. However, he probably projects as a shortstop in the Majors.

"This guy's a good player. He reminds a lot of Walt Weiss. He's very athletic," Ricciardi said. "To get a college kid with this caliber of talent in the middle of the diamond enhances everything we're doing. It kind of fast-forwards things."

2002 First-Year Player Draft
JUNE 4-5 | NEW YORK CITY
Draft order | Rules | FAQ

FULL COVERAGE:
Bullington goes first
Drafttracker
Complete Draft coverage

In high school, Adams was a National Honor Society member, an honor-roll student and a Pepsi Scholar-Athlete. His brother, Frank, is a member of the Eastern Carolina golf team. He said that his father, Frank Adams, has been his biggest role model.

"My father definitely has meant a tremendous amount to my development. Ever since I was a kid, he's been the one that was there," Adams said. "He's definitely been the most influential person in my athletic career, as well as any other arena."

Adams said that he tried to keep up with the draft on MLB.com but actually missed the moment when he got picked.

"Actually, it's kind of funny. My problem was my computer was run down a little bit, so I had to run to my uncle's house, who lives right around the corner," he said. "I guess I left around 30 seconds too late because they were on pick 20 when I got the computer turned on."

Spencer Fordin covers the Blue Jays for MLB.com. He can be reached at spencer.fordin@mlb.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.





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