ONE DRAFT, TWO PERSPECTIVES

The sweat is already beading up in the palms of Stephen Foster with equal parts excitement and nerves.

The sweat is already beading up in the palms of Stephen Foster with equal parts excitement and nerves.

Kyle Buchanan, on the other hand, won’t sweat a drop anticipating what might unfold Thursday and Friday during Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft.

While both of them – Auburn Riverside’s Foster and Auburn’s Buchanan – will be brought together during the next couple days through a shared boyhood dream, they very well could be going different directions come Saturday.

Foster’s hopes are sky high. The wiry 6-foot, 180-pound left-handed pitcher was a 37th-round selection by Baltimore in 2005, but instead opted for Bellevue Community College, where his draft stock has risen considerably since graduating from high school three years ago.

“I am really nervous,” admitted the 21-year-old Foster, who has been contacted by Colorado and the New York Yankees in recent weeks. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. This is really important to me. It’s what I’ve wanted to do forever.”The same rings true for the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Buchanan, one of the finest — if not the finest — catcher Auburn High has ever produced. But Buchanan, the only high schooler of the bunch and who struggled offensively this spring, hitting under .200 during a season in which he was pitched around like Barry Bonds, has other plans in mind.

“I’m going to school,” said Buchanan, who has a full-ride scholarship to Washington State University waiting for him regardless of what happens during the next couple of days.

Then, leaving the draft door just ajar, Buchanan said, “It all depends on the money.”

Ready to go

Foster has been eyeing this week for three years.

His ascension from a solid high school prospect to a sought after commodity was anything but smooth. After turning down Baltimore in 2005, Foster enrolled at Bellevue Community College, where he promptly was inserted into the bullpen.

“It took a little time for me to adjust,” admitted Foster, who comes at hitters with a curveball, changeup and a mid-to-high 80s fastball that occasionally touches 90.

A year after moving to the bullpen, Foster’s path hit another roadblock, when a strained elbow ligament cost him the entire 2007 season. Foster avoided surgery and returned to the Bulldogs’ roster this spring, where he was inserted into the starting rotation.

“The doctor told me I just threw too much and that I had a lack of flexibility,” Foster said.

At full strength this spring, Foster’s career path took off. Though he posted a modest a 4-3 record, his other numbers (24 hits allowed and 62 strikeouts in 58 innings pitched) indicate that the ceiling remains high.

The numbers were good enough for Foster to earn NWAACC All-Northern Region second-team honors and put him back on the draft map, where he has been told he could be selected anywhere between the 15th and the 25th rounds.

That being the case, Foster is ready for his day to come.

“I have one plan,” said Foster, who noted that he has a 75-percent athletic scholarship to Lewis & Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho waiting just in case the draft doesn’t work out. “But I probably will sign now (regardless).

“(In 2005), now that I look back on it, I wasn’t ready. I am now.”

Auburn’s Great Wall

Buchanan, meanwhile, entered his senior season at Auburn considered a top-flight catching talent and ranked 17th among high school seniors by baseballnorthwest.com.

And while Buchanan delivered behind the dish, he struggled offensively most of the year, hitting under .200 with two home runs and 15 RBIs.

“I was pressing,” admitted Buchanan, who more than likely will bypass any draft selection for Washington State, where he has a full-ride scholarship. “You get off to a slow start, you just keep pressing and pressing. Oh well, it’s over now.”

Actually, quite the contrary.

Before stepping onto the diamond at WSU, Buchanan will spend this summer playing in Oregon for the Bend Elks, who are part of the new West Coast Collegiate Baseball League. The second-year league is similar to that of the Cape Cod League in that players use wood bats, but it is designed for elite incoming college freshmen and sophomores.

And when it comes to elite, there were few better prep field generals than Buchanan. He didn’t just slow down opponents’ running games, he stopped them dead in their tracks.

“He’s one of the best we’ve seen around here,” Auburn Riverside coach Chris Garrison said. “Probably the best. You’re not going to straight steal on him ever.”

It’s as much a credit to Buchanan’s rifle right arm as it is his ability to block virtually any ball in the dirt.

“He’s like throwing to a wall that throws back,” Auburn pitcher Colton Brown said. “He’s pretty much been a stud since the day he was born.”