For now Ben Roberts is a Missoula Maverick.

In the future, well, he may be a Cougar, an Osprey or even a Diamondback.

Roberts, the starting center fielder for the Mavericks' Class AA American Legion baseball team, was selected Tuesday by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the seventh round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft.

The 6-foot-4 205-pound Roberts, who graduated from Missoula Sentinel just last Saturday, was the 214th player picked overall. Roberts was monitoring the second day of the draft live on MLB.com with his father when his name came across the screen.

"I don't know how to describe it," said the 18-year-old. "It's been my dream since the first day I ever played baseball. I wanted to be a pro baseball player. I can't ask for anything more, hopefully I get it."

A multi-sport star and all-state wide receiver for the Spartans' football team this past fall, Roberts has committed to play baseball at Washington State beginning next school year.

Roberts said he is going to weigh all his options before deciding on whether to honor his commitment to WSU or sign a contract and begin a professional career in the Diamondbacks' minor league system. Should he sign with Arizona, Roberts has the opportunity to play for the Missoula Osprey, one of Arizona's rookie league teams.

"There's a whole lot of negotiations," he said, "but until we get all that figured out the plan is to head off to school in the fall."

Osprey executive vice president Matt Ellis is one of those folks who'd love to see Roberts in an Osprey jersey this summer, but isn't pressing the issue right now.

"We're just excited for Ben and his family and the Mavs program and (Mavs manager) Brent Hathaway that he got drafted by the Diamondbacks," Ellis said, "because they've all done a great job. It's an exciting day for local baseball."

Ellis and his staff exchanged some high-fives when Roberts was picked by Arizona, but that's because he's admittedly biased.

"We know the Diamondbacks will treat him well and give him the best opportunity to make the big leagues," Ellis said. "If he plays in Missoula, that's just icing on the cake, but those other reasons are No. 1 why we're excited."

Roberts, who attended an open tryout for Arizona at Ogren-Allegiance Park a few years back, said it would be interesting if he signed with the D-backs and then got assigned to Missoula.

"Yeah, it'd be weird, but cool, too," Roberts said. "It'd be kind of cool to play some pro ball here, and have some hometown fans and stuff. It would also be kind of exciting to try something new; try life out there. Where ever they put me, I'll be happy. Eventually the goal is to be in Phoenix playing in the big stadium."

Roberts hasn't talked to anybody in the Osprey organization, just a few regional scouts who helped land him. And he hasn't started talking contract specifics, either.

"(Arizona) still has a bunch of picks to make. ... Something will get worked out in the next week or so," said Roberts, who didn't say how much money it would take to sign him. "There's not an exact number, but if it's high enough I might say, ‘There, that's enough for me to go out and play.'

"On the other side, college baseball is very worthwhile, too."

Roberts, reached by phone just hours before heading to Mavs practice, didn't have any plans for celebrating later.

Last summer, the left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing outfielder hit .415 with 22 doubles, 19 triples, 16 home runs and 76 RBIs in helping the Mavs win the Class AA Legion state championship. In 21 games this year, Roberts is hitting .323 with six doubles, a triple, three homers and 21 RBIs. He's listed as the top prospect from Montana in this year's graduating class by baseballnorthwest.com.

Roberts' selection in the seventh round matches former Mavs slugger and Loyola Sacred Heart grad Will Thompson as the highest draft choice for a Missoula-area player. In 2004, Thompson was drafted in the seventh round with the 220th overall pick by the San Francisco Giants.

Since the inception of the MLB draft in 1965, it is believed the state of Montana has produced just four players selected in the first five rounds.

In the draft's first year, Billings pitcher Les Rohr was taken second overall in the first round. A year later, Leo Pinnick of Billings was picked in the second round. In 2004, Butte's Rob Johnson went in the fourth round to the Seattle Mariners. Three years later pitcher Nolan Gallagher of Red Lodge also went to Seattle in the fourth round.

Also on Tuesday, former Bitterroot Bucs standout Cameron Edman was drafted in the 29th round by Baltimore. Edman, a senior, was the starting catcher at Gonzaga this past season. Several more Montana ball players could get drafted on Wednesday, when rounds 31-50 conclude the three-day event.

More from missoulian.com

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.