Oakland makes UTA player its Choice

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas -- Michael Choice sat up straight and waited as calmly as anyone could, considering four television cameras were pointed right at him from across his living room.

Family and friends crowded around, everyone certain that UT-Arlington's 6-0, 215-pound junior outfielder would be picked somewhere in the opening round of Monday evening's 2010 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

But which team would take him? Choice's immediate future hung on the words coming over the family's television set.

The first nine teams picked someone else. The room grew silent with each announcement, and when Choice's name wasn't called, murmurs grew.

An explosion of sound replaced those murmurs when commissioner Bud Selig announced that the Oakland Athletics selected Choice with the 10th pick in the first round.

The celebration had to be put on hold for a few moments so Choice could be interviewed live by Harold Reynolds in the MLB Network studio, but the all-clear signaled another outpouring of cheers.

Through it all, Choice did little more than smile.

"I'm not somebody that shows a lot of emotion," Choice said, "but my heart started beating heavier waiting for my name to be called."

Choice's father, Charles, fought back emotions afterward.

"I'm so proud and happy. Michael has worked so hard. This is something every little kid wants to do," said his dad, who recently retired from Bell Helicopter.

Based on mock drafts, Michael said he was picked in the position he expected.

He is the first UTA player to be selected in the first round. His selection matches the highest for a Southland Conference player. Louisiana-Monroe pitcher Ben Sheets was taken with the 10th pick in 1999.

He's never been to Oakland, but Choice, an admitted fan of the hometown Texas Rangers, said he is happy to be going to an American League team.

Oakland contacted him a few minutes after his selection and told him to enjoy his party and that they would talk at greater length later.

Choice's biggest problem leading up to the draft was killing the last few agonizing hours.

He went to the movies Sunday, ran errands and played video games Monday.

Choice was ignored in the 2007 draft coming out of high school, despite big offensive numbers at Mansfield Timberview, including a .506 batting average his senior year.

In his first high school varsity at-bat as a sophomore, Choice hit a home run. He spent most of his high school career as a catcher and pitcher for Timberview, which had just opened.

UT-Arlington coach Darin Thomas was one of the few willing to give him a chance at the collegiate level. Choice responded with a .392 career batting average and 162 RBIs over three seasons.

Finally, the scouts began to pay attention, leading to Monday's events.

"This was great today, seeing a lot of faces together to support me," Choice was saying after a few minutes to catch his breath. "I can't wait to get started."