Davis catches on with Rockies

Illinois catcher Lars Davis is likely to be chosen during the upcoming MLB draft. Steve Contorno

Illinois catcher Lars Davis is likely to be chosen during the upcoming MLB draft. Steve Contorno

By Jason Grodsky

Lars Davis took his first step toward the big leagues on Thursday.

The Illinois catcher was selected with the 102nd pick in the third round of the 2007 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Colorado Rockies.

Davis, the 2007 Big Ten Player of the Year, was the first Illini to be drafted and the highest Illinois player selected in the draft since Chris Robinson was taken in the third round by the Detroit Tigers with the 90th overall pick in the 2005 MLB Draft.

“I was really excited about everything and was trying to keep a level head during my game that night,” Davis said. “But after the game it really started to sink in and I got teased all night about it. Anytime we stopped to get something to eat, my teammates would joke that since I just got drafted I was paying for the whole thing.”

Davis, who is playing summer ball for the Duluth Huskies in the Northwoods summer league, missed the original call to inform him of his selection but later found out through a teammate prior to a game in Green Bay on Thursday night.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

“I asked one of my teammates to answer my phone during warm-ups if I got contacted and he ended up missing the call,” Davis said. “I eventually found out through one of our pitchers on our staff.”

Davis was coming off a junior season that saw him lead the Illini in almost every hitting category, earning him a spot on the Louisville Slugger Collegiate Baseball’s Second Team All-America at season’s end.

As Illinois’ backstop for the past two seasons, Davis finished the 2007 season leading the team in hits (90), RBIs (56), runs (53), home runs (13), slugging percentage (.673) and on-base percentage (.473). His 13 home runs led the Big Ten and he also led the Big Ten behind the plate, throwing out a league-best 24 would-be base stealers.

“I thought that Lars could go as high as he did because there were several teams that indicated they were interested in him,” Illini head coach Dan Hartleb said. “He is definitely well deserving of being a third-round pick.”

However, Davis’ selection in this year’s draft wasn’t the first time the Canadian catcher heard his named called by a Major League team at the draft.

The Alberta, Canada, native was drafted in the 2003 Draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 49th round, but decided not to sign with the Devil Rays, instead choosing to attend Lethbridge College before transferring to Illinois prior to the 2006 season.

“There is a better opportunity for me to progress through the system this time compared to 2003,” Davis said. “I feel that playing at Illinois was one of the big keys to making that jump to go higher in the draft. The coaches helped me immensely in my last two years. I couldn’t have done it without Coach Hartleb, Coach Snider, Coach Westray and Coach Herbison.”

Despite having one more year of eligibility at Illinois, Davis’ decision to sign with a Major League team should be a little easier than four years ago, but he isn’t ruling out the chance of coming back for his senior season just yet.

“I still have to weigh all my options,” Davis said. “I’m still not 100 percent sure of what I’m going to do right now. But there is a chance that the signing bonus I get will be larger than I anticipated so there is a good chance I will sign this year, but I still won’t rule out coming back because I love the University of Illinois. Right now I’m still just soaking it all in.”