American University basketball player Stephen Lumpkins is chosen by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the MLB draft

Stephen Lumpkins threw in front of baseball scouts after a sophomore basketball season in which he averaged 13 points.
Stephen Lumpkins threw in front of baseball scouts after a sophomore basketball season in which he averaged 13 points. (Mark Gail/the Washington Post)
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By Josh Barr
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 10, 2010

Having played little baseball since finishing high school and focusing on his college basketball career, American University sophomore Stephen Lumpkins spent part of this spring trying to get his throwing arm in shape so that he could get back on the pitcher's mound.

The 6-foot-8 left-hander was hoping to play for a local college summer-league team. He didn't expect to possibly become a professional baseball player.

But because of a quirky rule that Lumpkins didn't know -- most players at four-year colleges are not draft-eligible until after their third year of college, but because American does not field a baseball team he is able to be selected at any time -- Lumpkins was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 42nd round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Wednesday.

"Once I figured out I was draft-eligible, I made that my goal," said Lumpkins, a starting forward who averaged 13 points and 8.5 rebounds this past basketball season. "Not a lot of teams had seen me, but I thought it was pretty cool to get drafted in professional baseball."

Fifteen more Washington-area players were selected Wednesday in the draft's final 20 rounds, though only two were high school seniors: All-Met Player of the Year Bobby Wahl, a West Springfield pitcher, went in the 39th round to Cleveland and Churchill pitcher Harris Fanaroff went in the 50th round to Washington.

Lumpkins said he played in a few American Legion games during the month he was home in California last summer. Planning to join the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League's Bethesda Big Train for their season this summer, he began working out following American's basketball season, occasionally playing catch with basketball teammate Joe Hill at the school's soccer field. (American last fielded a baseball team in 1986.)

"I tried not to throw too hard to him," Lumpkins said. "He broke his nose at the end of the season. I didn't want it to bounce up in his face or something."

Somehow, word got out that Lumpkins was planning a return to the diamond. He worked out for a few area scouts back home and also threw about 50 pitches off a mound for D.C. area scouts. Now, he might have to decide whether to pursue a pro baseball career.

"It's kind of weird how it happened," Lumpkins said. "Friends of friends heard I was throwing again. I don't know how any of these [scouts] got my number."


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