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Keene hooks Miami Marlins

Christian ‘Bubba’ Keene slipped on his Miami Marlins cap with pride yesterday.

     For the third year in a row, a Brookhaven Academy product heard their name called in the Major League Baseball Draft. Keene, a fleet-footed outfielder,  was drafted by the Miami Marlins in the 17th Round Wednesday afternoon. The 40-round draft, which includes international players from Japan and  Puerto Rico, concluded this morning.

     “I’m excited and happy,” said a smiling Keene. “This is a true blessing and I want to thank everyone; from my family, friends, coaches, and Brookhaven Academy teammates, for all the support. It’s amazing.”

     Keene joins BA graduates Kolby Byrd (Cardinals) and Corey Dickerson (Rockies) as Lincoln County players drafted in the last three years.

     Franklin County native James O. Covington, a baseball advisor with Bus Cook Sports Agency firm out of Hattiesburg, will handle negotiations with Keene and the Marlins in the coming days.

     “I feel certain that a deal will get done,” said Covington about contract talks. “The Marlins are a first class organization. Vice President Dan Jennings, Scouting Director Stan Meek and super scouts Mark Willoughby and Benny Latino Jr., do a great job with the team; from grading talent to signing and developing it for the Major Leagues.”

     The Marlins were one of several teams that targeted Keene on their draft board, according to Covington.

     “It was about five teams that contacted me about Christian during the draft,” added Covington. “It got down to a logical landing spot for him, and the Marlins reeled him in.”

     Once a deal is met, Keene will report to the Marlins Spring Training complex in Jupiter, Fla. for physicals and team assignments.

     “I really want to play pro ball,” added Keene. “It’s been a lifelong dream of mine, ever since I was playing little league out here in Brookhaven. It still hasn’t hit me yet that I’m a Major League Draft Pick!”

     Keene, The DAILY LEADER’s All-Lincoln County MVP in 2012, batted .374 with six home runs and 23 RBIs this spring. The Cougars went 20-13 this season and made it to the MAIS Class AA South State Championship series against Centreville, losing 1-0 in the third and decisive game.

      Keene, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound speedster, signed  football and baseball scholarships with Copiah-Lincoln Community College in the winter, but is likely to forego college to play professional baseball. He also was named the DL’s Mr. Football and MVP on the 2011 Al-Lincoln County Team. He starred as a wide receiver, running back, defensive back, punter and kick returner.

     “We’ll all sit down and talk and make a decision here pretty soon,” said Keene’s father, Ronnie. “Right now we’re just happy and fortunate that Bubba was good enough to be drafted. To hear your son’s name called in something like this that is worldwide is not just an honor but a blessing.”

     Over the past month, Keene participated in private invitation-only workouts for several MLB clubs. Teams he worked out for included the Atlanta Braves, Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals, Seattle Mariners, Milwaukee Brewers, and Tampa Bay Rays. He also worked for the Marlins twice. 

     “I want to thank my family, especially my grandparents, Donald and Hannah Keene, for believing in me,” said Bubba. “They and my parents mean a lot to me and they wanted this as much as I did.

     “James O. Covington, my advisor, wow! He did so much for me by just being there for me and getting teams to look at me and just even consider drafting me. This is a dream come true.”

     Brookhaven Academy coach Casey Edwards expressed gratitude about Keene’s abilities.

     “I’m very happy for Bubba and his family,” said Edwards. “He’s very deserving and I really believe he has the tools to have a long professional career.

     “I’m also proud for our program. Three straight years our program has produced a high draft pick. I don’t know of many other schools in the state that can say that.”

      According to Baseball Prospectus, Brookhaven is the first city under population of 40,000 to have three baseball players drafted in consecutive years in the Top 20 rounds.     

     “It’s all about finding talent in the right places,” said Covington. “Brookhaven’s in my back yard, and with guys like Corey, Kolby, and Bubba here, it’s pretty easy to judge that hey, these guys can play!”

     Major League Baseball has taken notice. So far it’s been a home run for Lincoln County.