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Nick Plummer just tried to keep himself busy. He had a pretty good idea he'd be selected in the Major League Baseball draft sometime Monday, but he wasn't sure when.

So, as the draft slowly wound its way through the first 10 picks, he headed outside to play some catch. At one point, the ping-pong table was busted out.

"I was just trying to find stuff to keep my mind off it," said Plummer, the Birmingham Brother Rice baseball star. "I wasn't really nervous. I was more curious to see who was gonna pull the trigger."

That team ended up being the St. Louis Cardinals, who drafted Plummer with the No. 23 overall pick.

That made Plummer the first high school ballplayer from Michigan to be taken in the first round since Dearborn Divine Child's Ryan Anderson was selected 19th overall by the Seattle Mariners in 1997, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Plummer is the highest-drafted position player since some lanky kid from Kalamazoo named Derek Jeter went No. 6 overall to the New York Yankees in 1992.

A solidly built center fielder, who bats and throws left, Plummer is expected to sign in short order and pass on his commitment to Kentucky — assuming the Cardinals make him an around-slot offer. The slot value for the 23rd overall pick is $2.124 million.

Plummer talked briefly with the Cardinals on Monday night, and expects to have more serious discussions Tuesday.

"I want to get a quick start," Plummer said.

At No. 23, Plummer was drafted one pick after the Tigers took Texas high school right-hander Beau Burrows.

The Tigers had showed some interest in the hometown kid, but the area scout called Plummer's stepdad recently and expressed that the Tigers would go another direction. They wished Plummer luck with his career.

Plummer, 18, being a Tigers fan, said the team got a good pitcher in Burrows; the two have played together.

"A great player," said Plummer, "and an even better kid. That's really good for the Tigers and good for Beau."

When the day began, Plummer wasn't exactly sure where he'd go — projections had him being taken anywhere from the end of the first round to the beginning or middle of the second round, with the compensatory round between the first and second being a realistic possibility.

Even if he slipped to well into the second round, he had a safety net in the New York Mets, who had said they'd give him an above-slot deal if he still was available.

The Toronto Blue Jays, though, seemed most interested among teams with earlier picks. They drafted at No. 29, as it turns out, six picks too late.

The Cardinals, one of the teams that made the least amount of contact with Plummer over the last several weeks, surprised him.

"We heard it on TV, and the room went silent for three seconds. It was really weird," said Plummer, laughing about the scene at his Lathrup Village home, where a small gathering of family and friends attended a low-key night free of media. "The whole room was silent! Then everybody started clapping and hugging. It was really great."

Plummer joins a short, but historic list of high school players from Michigan to be drafted in the first round, including Jeter, the future Hall of Famer, as well as Frank Tanana, Ted Simmons, Steve Avery and Bernie Carbo.

"It's very exciting, obviously," Brother Rice coach Bob Riker said after the announcement Monday. "It's good for our program, it's good for our school. I'm just really, really happy for Nick."

Plummer said he was expecting to go to the Blue Jays at No. 29, or somewhere in the 30s.

Either scenario would've gotten him to pro ball, with some good money in the bank.

But now, he can say he was a first-round draft pick. And it doesn't get much better than that.

"I'm just elated the Cardinals have that much faith in me," Plummer said in a late-night phone call, his voice still oozing energy. "Is it awesome to say I got drafted in the first round? Yeah. I think it'd be better to say I played major league baseball."

Few players selected early in the draft — which continues Tuesday and concludes Wednesday — saw their stock rise as swiftly as Plummer's did over the last year.

Last summer, Plummer set off on a cross-country tour of showcase camps — so many, he estimates he only spent about a week-and-a-half at home during the break between his junior and senior years of high school.

It paid off, as his quick, powerful bat turned heads for scouts of all 30 major league teams. There wasn't one team that didn't make contact with him at some point.

"After last summer, when everyone started talking about him and calling and wondering about him, I thought then he'd definitely be a high pick," Riker said. "I knew he was a definite DI player when he came in as a freshman.

"But you never really know a guy is going to be this high of a draft pick."

Plummer becomes the 10th player from Brother Rice to be taken in the MLB draft; the most notable member of that club is Colorado Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu, a second-round pick by the Chicago Cubs in 2009 who might just be in line to play in the All-Star Game this year.

Plummer is a humble, soft-spoken kid who declined all media's requests to observe him watching the draft Monday night. He honored all media requests afterward, including his introductory teleconference with St. Louis reporters; he was answering questions well after midnight.

Monday's news took the sting off his team's crushing, 2-1, eight-inning regional loss to Utica Eisenhower on Saturday. Plummer had hoped to still be playing baseball when his named was called Monday night. He'll be playing baseball again soon, but as a professional, with one of MLB's most-respected franchises.

"I'm happy going to St. Louis, and being a part of that organization," said Plummer, who in his senior season at Brother Rice hit over .500 with 68 runs scored, 32 stolen bases, 23 RBIs and 22 doubles. "I'm ready to see where I can take this."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tonypaul1984

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