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Commentary | Palmetto High product Granden Goetzman, Tampa Bay Rays may be perfect fit

Had any team called his name during that day in early June, Granden Goetzman would have been happy.

Goetzman had wanted to play pro baseball since he was old enough to know what he wanted to do, and when he was picked during the second round of the 2011 amateur draft, the Palmetto grad was elated.

That it was the Tampa Bay Rays -- well, who could have written up a better scenario than that?

Forget the obvious. Yes, Goetzman, who grew up in Palmetto and took in many a game inside Tropicana Field, is a Rays fan. But the reason Goetzman couldn’t have chosen a better employer is because the Rays live and die with homegrown talent.

They live and die with players like Goetzman, who took his first professional at-bat about a month after receiving his high school diploma.

Goetzman isn’t groomed to be a bargaining chip at the trade deadline. The Rays don’t like trading prospects. The Rays don’t go for the big-ticket free agents, so Goetzman doesn’t have to worry about a $20 million superstar blocking his progress.

And the Rays have one of baseball’s most renowned farm systems, so Goetzman will be getting some of the best coaching in baseball.

Not a bad marriage.

“We have great instructors,” Goetzman said Wednesday at Tropicana Field, where he worked out as part of the team’s winter development program, “and I’ve got great people around me.”

The Rays’ turnaround the past four years has been the result of great work in the draft room. Would they have won the American League pennant in 2008 without the likes of Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford or B.J. Upton? Would they have won the division in 2010 without 19-game winner David Price?

And the starting rotation, considered the Rays’ strength and one of the best in baseball, is anchored by James Shields, Price and Jeremy Hellickson -- guys the Rays drafted, fostered and refused to deal when they had the chance.

The Rays know how to work with players such as Goetzman, stars in high school who now have to adjust to life as a pro, guys like Crawford, Upton and Rocco Baldelli.

“When they come in, there is such a huge acclimation period for these young guys, and more so for the high school athlete than the college athlete,” said Mitch Lukevicz, the Rays director of minor league development. “(Goetzman) is here in our winter development program, he’s getting more acclimated. You can see him loosening up now; he feels more at home.

“I can recite all these guys that were high-school signs that are playing for us in the big leagues that experienced the same thing that Granden Goetzman did.”

Goetzman sat by his locker inside the Rays’ clubhouse following Wednesday’s workout, looking comfortable while sipping on a bottle of water and watching ESPN on a flat-screen television. He and the rest of the Rays prospects were waiting to head to a local Boys and Girls Club, a moment of altruism that serves as yet another part of the Rays’ development process.

Most importantly, Goetzman was on the way toward the future, with the best possible baseball team backing him.

John Lembo, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-2097.

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