CONWAY, Ark. _ Some of the first photos ever taken of Doug Votolato as a baby had him wearing Texas Rangers gear. His next photo will have him decked out in the real thing.
After turning in one of the best seasons in recent history at the University of Central Arkansas this spring, the senior center fielder was drafted by his home-state Rangers in the ninth round of the Major League Baseball draft on Friday.
Votolato, a first-team All-Southland Conference player from Flower Mound, Texas, is the fourth UCA player drafted in the past year. Votolato was the 276th player picked, joining last year's threesome of Forrestt Allday, Jonathan Davis and Jeffery Enloe as UCA draftees. His selection in the ninth round is the third-highest of any UCA player in history.
Votolato found out mid-afternoon that his favorite team was interested.
"I probably had the biggest smile I've ever had on my face when they called. It was huge,' said Votolato, who signed his contract in a suite at the Rangers-Cleveland Indians game on Friday night. "They said they were going to take me in either the ninth of 10th rounds. When they called right before they drafted me in the ninth, it was like a dream come true, really.'
"Good things come to those that work hard,' said UCA head coach Allen Gum, "and Doug worked tremendously hard on all parts of his game. One thing we always talk about is being a "triangle player.' Somebody that can score runs, somebody that can drive in runs and somebody that can keep the other team from scoring.
"Doug was that kind of player for us this year. He did all three at a very high level. And most importantly, he did it consistently from the beginning of the year until the very end of the year. This game demands consistency, and his approach every day was consistent throughout the year.' Votolato finished second in the SLC in hitting with a .379 average. He also led the league in stolen bases with 26, was third in hits (83), fifth in runs batted in (50) and second in on-base percentage (.456). The hits mark is third-best in UCA history, while the stolen base total is fourth.
"He was a vital, a big, big part of our team this year, to give us a chance to get back to the (SLC) championship game, with a chance to go to regionals again,' Gum said. "We wouldn't have gotten there without him, there's no question about that.
"He led our team on the field, was a great leadoff hitter and was a great defensive center fielder for us. He scored us a lot of runs but he also saved us a lot of runs with his play in the outfield. You can't say enough about the job he did in center field, how many balls he ran down that would have been extra-base hits.
"Just a complete player. A great student that has his degree. An all-around complete student-athlete if there ever was one.'
Votolato helped the Bears to a 32-22 record this season and a spot in the SLC Tournament championship game for the second straight year. He started in all 52 games he played, missing two games with an injury. The Bears lost 12 players from their NCAA Regional team of 2013.
"He played hurt, he grinded it out when we had to have him out there,' Gum said. "He just had a great year and I'm really proud of him.'
"I was just proud of our team,' said Votolato. "This year was a complete, total team effort, without a doubt. We had freshmen in there doing their thing everyday, playing as hard as they could. It really took everybody this year. Last year there was really a set group of guys who were playing everyday, but this year we had not idea what the lineup was even going to be.
"We dealt with it amazingly well. I don't think there was another group of guys that could have done what we did this year. I'm just really proud of everyone.'