Meet Anthony Rendon, Rice Baseball's Newest Whiz Kid

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John Royal
Meet Anthony Rendon
His name is Anthony Rendon. You might have heard of him if you're a fan of Rice Owls baseball, or if you follow college baseball. You might also have heard of him if you're one of those people who follow Houston-area high school baseball. If you're a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates, you most definitely have heard his name.

And if your name is Scott Boras or Randy or Alan Hendricks or Tom Reich or Arn Tellem or any other agent, then not only do you know the name Anthony Rendon, you most definitely are doing everything possible and allowable to add Rendon to your stable of highly paid clients.

For the rest of you, those who aren't aware of the name Anthony Rendon, know this, he is a college junior who plays third base for the Rice Owls. And being a junior means that, once this upcoming baseball season has ended, he is eligible for the MLB amateur draft.

And if this upcoming college season falls into line for Rendon, then the odds are that on the day of the MLB draft, Anthony Rendon will receive a phone call from the Pittsburgh Pirates, the team with the first pick in the draft. The Pirates will introduce themselves and tell Rendon that they've just drafted him, and like that, Rendon, one of the best players in college baseball, will be on the way to living the dream of every kid who picks up the bat for the very first time.

"It's always fun to me," Rendon says about baseball. "I've been playing it my whole life. It's why I do do it, because it's fun. Even if you're working, you don't want to do something you don't like for the rest of your life. This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I enjoy doing it. I can't really picture myself doing anything else. I love playing baseball. It's always fun."

So just how good is this Anthony Rendon kid? He was drafted by the Atlanta Braves out of Lamar High School where he played shortstop. But he chose to go to Rice. At Rice, he was the National Freshman of the Year, an All-American and a Freshman All-American. He has been the Conference USA Player of the Year for both of his seasons in college, and last season he was Baseball America's National Player of the Year, and he was the winner of the Dick Howser Award, which goes to the college baseball player of the year.

He can hit for average and for power. He has a good eye and draws walks. He was moved to third base in college to take advantage of his defensive skills, and he's shown a quick step to his left and to his right with a cannon arm and the good reflexes needed to play the hot corner.

The pressure is going to be on Rendon this season. There's the pressure to please the major league scouts who will be sitting in the stands every night. There will be the pressure to produce, not just for the scouts, but because he's the best player on a Rice team that is once again picked to advance to Omaha and the College World Series.

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John Royal
Anthony Rendon fields the ball during practice
But in that way, it's good that Rendon is playing at Rice, and playing for Wayne Graham, because if there is one thing that Graham and the Owls have become known for over the past several decades, along with producing winning baseball teams, it's producing high MLB draft picks, such as Lance Berkman, Jose Cruz Jr., Jeff Niemann, Bubba Crosby and David Aardsma. So Rendon won't be facing this pressure on his own.

"You kind of keep a close eye on things and don't let things build," Graham said when asked about dealing with the added MLB pressure. "But so far, he's the kind of guy that's been so even-tempered and loves the game so much. So far we don't anticipate a problem, but we'll keep an eye on things, help him if he needs help."

Rendon is aware of all the chatter around him, of all of the eyes watching him. He's aware of the draft rumors, and he's heard the talk about the big contract that should be just around the corner. He's aware, but while he's aware, he's trying to put it all aside because he has other business to handle.

"You can't really run from it," he says. "Even around campus. My family members will talk about it: yeah, I read this and that. And my friends say that, too. You can't run from that. You've got to take it as it is. I don't want to get too ahead of myself. Of course if it happens, it's going to be my lifelong dream, but I'm still here at Rice. I can't even worry about going to the pros right now. I still haven't finished business here. I'm still trying to get to Omaha. We all are."

Anthony Rendon will probably be participating in his very first major league spring training come this time next year. But for now, he plays third base for the Rice Owls. And when the Owls open the season against Stanford on Friday afternoon, he will be the happiest guy in the world because he will be doing what he loves, playing baseball and having fun.

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