Kendall drafted by Tampa Bay in fifth round

The wait is over for Ian Kendall.

Now, it's decision time.

The former Ashland High right-handed pitcher, who helped the Grizzlies advance to two Class 5A state championship games in the past three years, was taken by the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the 161st pick — the 16th selection of the fifth round — in the Major League Baseball draft.

Kendall, 18, who will graduate from AHS Friday, learned of his draft fate through a phone call from his mom during his lunch break.

"I called him and he had just got out of his final and was headed for lunch," Leslie Kendall said. "And I just said, 'You're a Tampa Bay Ray. You're a Tampa Bay Ray!'"

If he decides to go that route, that is.

Ian Kendall has already committed to play for Oregon State, and now will have to decide if he'll head to Corvallis next fall or sign with the Rays. Early indications are that he wants to fulfill a lifelong dream and go pro.

"They're definitely an organization I want to be a part of," he said of the Rays, after practicing with the Medford Mustangs Tuesday afternoon. "They have a great organization — obviously, they have the most wins in baseball right now. I'm just looking forward to being a part of their organization. I'm ready to play baseball every day and to try and get better."

Kendall, listed by at 6-foot, 205 pounds, was the second of 19 players from the state of Oregon drafted Tuesday, and one of just two prep players taken. The other, left-handed pitcher Ben Wetzler of Clackamas, was selected by the Cleveland Indians with the 405th pick.

Only one other Oregon player was taken ahead of Kendall, Oregon State junior Tyler Waldron, another right-handed pitcher.

"I'm pretty excited, obviously," Kendall said. "To go in the fifth round is pretty cool. I'm just looking forward to the opportunity if I decide to go there."

Oregon State baseball coach Pat Casey called Kendall to touch bases after he was drafted.

"They obviously want me to come to college ... but they were just happy for me," Kendall said.

Kendall committed to Oregon State last fall, but his stock rose considerably during the high school baseball season as he bulldozed his way through a dominant Southern Sky Conference campaign. His fastball increased two clicks to a personal-best of 95 mph during a win over Eagle Point on April 13, and he seemed to get stronger as the season went on.

In Ashland's semifinal win over Madras on June 1, Kendall reached 95 mph three times in the first inning. He also throws a curveball, a change-up and a rising fastball.

Chuck Thacker, who's been coaching Kendall since he was a 12-year-old Ashland Little Leaguer, said he will only get better.

"Today, after he gets drafted, I go to the YMCA after playing tennis and I go in a back room and see him with 150 pounds on his back, doing lunges, just trying to make himself better," Thacker said. "He's the kind of kid that, in between games, he's working out. And the kid loves baseball. He just finished a very competitive and long high school season and he's already looking forward to playing again this summer."

Thacker added that Kendall's mechanics made him attractive to scouts, who flocked to Ashland games all spring, with as many as 24 showing up for one game.

"He's got what the scouts call a very clean motion," Thacker said. "It's smooth, not forced. To me, he's built like Roger Clemens, but just a couple inches shorter. I have no doubt he'll get more, speed-wise. When (Kendall) gets on a workout program, he'll get at least 10 pounds heavier, stronger. My guess is, he'll add a few miles per hour."

In his senior season, Kendall had an astounding 0.71 ERA through the state semifinals with 94 strikeouts and 41 walks. In Saturday's state championship game against North Eugene, Kendall's last as a Grizzly, he carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning before eventually giving up one earned run on three hits in 51/3 innings.

Kendall (10-3) struck out 12 and walked four, but took the loss after the Highlanders won 3-0.

Now, Kendall has a few months to decide what he wants to do next. The deadline for signing players is Aug. 16. If Kendall chooses to join the Beavers, he'll likely re-enter the draft following his junior year of college.

Either way, Kendall's future in baseball looks bright.

"The potential (to be drafted) really wasn't there until this baseball season," Leslie Kendall said. "We were thrilled with the opportunity that he was provided by Oregon State, and he was very comfortable and excited about playing baseball for Oregon State. Now his options have opened up a little bit and we'll see what happens."

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