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Something Brewin' with Vucinich

by MARK NELKE
Sports Editor | June 9, 2010 9:00 PM

Ex-Coeur d’Alene High star drafted by Milwaukee on Tuesday, signs that night, ready for pro ball

Shea Vucinich said it's been a dream to play professional baseball since he was a little boy, playing Wiffle ball with his friends in a scaled-down baseball field built in the back yard of the family home in Hayden.

So when the Milwaukee Brewers drafted Vucinich, the former Coeur d'Alene High standout, in the 20th round of the Major League Baseball first-year player draft Tuesday - the 609th pick overall - he didn't waste any time deciding what to do.

"I'm actually walking over to go sign my pro contract," Vucinich said Tuesday night from the Washington State campus in Pullman.

Vucinich, a junior, was a three-year starter at shortstop for the Cougars, helping them qualify for the NCAA tournament the past two seasons.

"I really appreciate everything from Cougarville," Vucinich said. "I've grown a lot as an individual player and a person here. I've really enjoyed my time here, but I think I'm ready for a new chapter of life."

Vucinich, who said he received a signing bonus but politely declined to disclose the sum, said he'll report to the Brewers organization next week either in Arizona or in Helena, Mont., where the team has a Rookie League team in the Pioneer League.

Vucinich said Milwaukee, Texas and Colorado had shown the most interest in him prior to the draft, and he was told he would likely be selected between rounds 15-25.

WSU's season ended Monday, one game short of the Super Regionals, after a loss to Arkansas on Monday night in the championship game of the Fayetteville (Ark.) Regional. The Cougars finished 37-22.

On Tuesday, Vucinich was out golfing with some friends at the Palouse Ridge Golf Club in Pullman, "trying to avoid the Internet," he said.

But on the sixth hole, one of his former teammates in the summer Cape Cod League texted him with the draft news.

"I really like the organization," Vucinich said of the Brewers. "I know that area scout (Brandon Newell) really well; he's done a lot of hard work for me, getting my name out. I appreciate everything he's done."

Vucinich, a general studies major, said he is three semesters away from earning his degree. He said he plans to come back and finish his degree.

"I am, definitely," he said. "That's very important to me, finishing school, getting my paper (diploma)."

Vucinich is the first Cougar shortstop to be selected since the Milwaukee Brewers made Mike Wetmore a seventh-round selection in 1996.

The 6-foot, 183-pound Vucinich made his first collegiate start in the second game of his freshman season. Two games later, he moved into the starting lineup for good. He has started the last 119 games for the Cougars and 156 of the last 159, missing three games at UCLA due to injury in his freshman season. He was the only Cougar to start all 59 games in 2010. He batted .262 with 32 RBIs and 45 runs and anchored an infield that turned 66 ground balls into double plays this season.

Vucinich's WSU teammate, junior right-handed pitcher Chad Arnold, was taken in the 18th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Last year, WSU went 1-2 in its first trip to the NCAAs since 1990. This year, the Cougars beat Arkansas on its home field Sunday night to force a second title game, but could repeat the victory on Monday.

"Going into this regional, we felt a lot more confident than we did last year," Vucinich said. "Last year we were kinda going there, with a little bit of excitement, just ready to play. We really went into this one ready to win, and lay it all on the line. We didn't go in there tentative at all, we gave it all we had. We just ran out of a little mustard at the end."

So with the WSU program on the rise, does that make it tougher for Vucinich to leave with one year of eligibility remaining?

"Yeah, it's a hard decision, especially with all the good things that have happened along the road in the last three years," he said. "But I think I'm just ready for something new."

WSU sports information contributed to this story.

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