Illini shortstop joins dad in Detroit via draft

Illinois shortstop Shawn Roof is likely to be chosen during the upcoming MLB draft. Steve Contorno

Illinois shortstop Shawn Roof is likely to be chosen during the upcoming MLB draft. Steve Contorno

By Jason Grodsky

With the 1018th pick in the 2007 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, the Detroit Tigers stayed within their baseball family by drafting Illinois shortstop Shawn Roof.

Roof, whose father Gene is the Tigers roving outfield instructor, was selected on the second day of the draft Friday in the 33rd round. The Paducah, Ky., native was the second Illini to be drafted in this year’s draft, behind catcher Lars Davis, who was the third round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies.

“This is a great opportunity for Shawn, and he is very deserving of it,” Illinois coach Dan Hartleb said. “He has great instincts and blood lines in baseball. He’s a player who makes the most of his talent and he has an incredible work ethic.”

Roof is coming off a record-setting senior season on the field for the Illini. Despite finishing the season with a .298 batting average, he was a menace on the base paths, setting the single-season stolen bases record and becoming the first player in the program’s history to swipe 40 bases in a season.

He also broke the single-season and career records for hit-by-pitch this year and finished his Illini career batting .303 with 65 steals.

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Roof also made an impact off the field this season, graduating with a degree in community health and earning one of the Big Ten Conference’s 22 Outstanding Sportsmanship Awards for his involvement and leadership in various community service activities throughout the year.

“Shawn is a person that can give an organization more than just attributes on the field,” Hartleb said. “I believe the Tigers’ coaching staff will like Shawn and he will fit in well with young players.”

With Roof’s selection, he became one of four picks by Detroit on day two of the draft that are related to current members of the Tigers organization.

Detroit also continued its recent trend of drafting Illini. Former Illinois catcher Chris Robinson, who is now in the Chicago Cubs organization, was drafted by Detroit in the third round of the 2005 draft.

The Tigers also dipped into the Illini’s future bag of players by drafting incoming Illinois left-handed pitcher Casey Crosby in the fifth round with the 181st overall pick.

Crosby was 6-2 with a 0.88 ERA and struck out 92 batters in 63 2/3 innings for Kaneland High School this past season, earning him honorable mention to the Chicago Tribune’s All-State teams.

The 6-5, 200-pound Elburn, Ill., native signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Illini next season, but now has the option of jumping into the minor league system by signing with the Tigers.

“I’ve talked to Casey before the draft and then the day after, and it feels like one of those things that may drag on a little while,” Hartleb said.