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With three years under his belt at UK, Meyer positioned to realize pro dreams

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Alex Meyer is UK's highest draft pick since Joe Blanton went No. 24 overall in 2002. (UK Athletics) Alex Meyer is UK's highest draft pick since Joe Blanton went No. 24 overall in 2002. (UK Athletics)
Alex Meyer has been here before. For the second time, the big right-hander is experiencing a moment that so many young athletes strive for: hearing his name called on draft day.

The first time, Meyer was selected in the 20th round of the 2008 MLB First-Year player draft by the Boston Red Sox. Making a decision he hoped would help his long-term development both on and off the field, Meyer chose to rebuff a lucrative offer by the Red Sox and honor his commitment to pitch for the University of Kentucky.

After being selected with 23rd pick of the first round by the Washington Nationals in this year's draft, he is sure to be even more hotly pursued. Having made the decision to head to Lexington three years ago, Meyer is equipped with everything he needs to succeed at the next level.

"This is what I went to college for," Meyer said on a teleconference Monday night. "I wanted to go to college and develop my game and become the best baseball player that I could be and I feel like I took great strides this year to get to that point."

Meyer's selection comes on the heels of a standout junior season that saw him earn All-Southeastern Conference honors. In spite of occasional struggles by his offense and bullpen, Meyer led his team with seven wins, posting an SEC-high 110 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.94 in the process.

With exceptional arm and a 6-foot, 9-inch frame, Meyer has always stood out on the diamond. However, Meyer recognizes how far he had to come to deliver the kind of consistent season he had in 2011.

"Coming into campus, everybody knew I was going to be a huge project from the beginning," Meyer said. "I knew my stuff was good when I got there; it just needed to be fine-tuned a little bit."

UK head coach Gary Henderson was elated at Meyer's decision to attend school and laid out a plan to transform him from "intriguing" to "dominant". Although there were bumps along the road, particularly during freshman and sophomore seasons marked by struggles and inconsistency, they stayed true to the plan.

"When Coach Henderson brought me in, he laid out exactly what his plan was for me," Meyer said. "We did a good job of accomplishing it. It took a little longer than we would have hoped, but we got it done."

A native of Greensburg, Ind., Meyer had to learn what it meant to be a pitcher when he arrived on campus.

"He did a great job of teaching me about the game of pitching," Meyer said. "I came from a small town, I didn't know too much about it. I was just throwing the ball. Coach Henderson did a great job developing me as a pitcher and get to where I am today."

Meyer took full advantage of the unique baseball rule allowing a player to be drafted yet still return to school. Henderson's tutelage has helped put Meyer in a position where he feels prepared to take on the professional ranks.

His feelings upon being drafted this time around are exclusively positive. He was joined by his parents, his brother, his sister, his aunt and uncle for his big moment.

"When it happened, I took in a deep breath and put my hands over my face and got a little emotional there for a second," Meyer said. "You've just got to take it for what it is and I'm extremely happy right now. I can't put into words how I feel. It's been an awesome night and I'm really excited for my opportunity."

The pick was the second of the first round for the Nationals after the team took third baseman Anthony Rendon of Rice sixth overall. Some projections had Meyer in contention at the sixth pick, but he did not anticipate going that high.

"I had a pretty good idea of what I thought was going to happen and they were definitely in the mix," Meyer said. "I definitely saw the chances of going at No. 6 and I knew that was kind of a stretch, but it worked out the way I thought it would and I couldn't be happier with it."

Meyer joins an organization that has been making high draft picks for a number of years and hopes to be a big part of the Nationals' bright future.

"I'm extremely excited to be drafted by the Washington Nationals," Meyer said. "They're a team on the rise with the prospects they've drafted over the last few years with Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and obviously this year they selected Anthony Rendon with their first pick. It's pretty special to be selected by a club like that and I couldn't be happier."

A return to UK for his senior year is still an option, but Meyer is looking forward to negotiations with the Nationals and getting a deal done.

"It's just a matter of time and I just have to sit down with my family," Meyer said. "I just got off the phone with the (Washington general manager) Mr. (Mike) Rizzo and they want to talk in the next couple days and I'm guessing we'll have a better idea (about a potential agreement) after that."

If a deal is reached and Meyer eventually joins the big league team in the nation's capital, he will become a part of a quickly developing UK contingent in Washington, D.C. Between John Wall, Victoria Dunlap and Jeremy Jarmon, Meyer would have a group with which he can reminisce about the old college days.

"It's ironic that it all falls into place like that," Meyer said. "I talked to John Wall a couple times while I was at school and he's a great guy. If it all works out, maybe we'll all get together some time."

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