By ADAM HICKS
AS FAR as US major league baseball scouts a concerned, North’s short stop James Linger has it all.
The 17-year-old has been signed by the Atlanta Braves organisation after talent scouts rated him at the top of all their selection criteria; power, batting average, throwing accuracy, throwing speed and running speed.
His dad Mark, a 1980s Australian representative player, said James’ rating was very rare.
“The scouts gave him a very, very high rating. One of the highest of any scouted person,” Mark said.
“I’m just a father, so I can’t speak for the scouts, but that’s reasonably high for a young boy.”
The Year 12 student at McAuley Catholic College, Grafton, was payed a US$120,000 (AU$139,000) sign-on fee which includes US$35,000 for college fees, to join the Braves organisation for five years.
“I’m so happy about that,” he said.
“I’ve been looked at for three years and it happened on January 2.
“It was not their first offer ...but the Braves said they wouldn’t make any further offers and I wanted to go with the Braves because they have the best facilities and the best structure for bringing you through the ranks.
“Also their fields are really good and their accommodation is really good.
“My plan is to train and play hard and well and hopefully make the majors”
But there is a long road ahead.
Linger will finish his HSC this year before heading to the US in March 2009, to play with the Braves’ affiliate team in the Rookie League.
There he will be paid a weekly wage and play six days per week for the six-month season.
From the Rookies, Linger has to rise through three other leagues before he makes it to the big time – a feat achieved previously by only a handful of Australians.
However Linger’s long list of accomplishments suggests he has the talent to go all the way.
He was a clear stand-out in leading Queensland to win the AAA (Under 19s) National Championships in Perth earlier this month.
Linger finished the tournament with the highest batting average (0.405), the most hits (17), the most runs batted in (17), the most bases from hits (29), the best slugging average (0.690), the most assisted outs (37) and the most home runs (2).
He was also a late addition to the senior Queensland side for Australia’s top baseball tournament, the Claxton Shield.
And after playing in just five of Queensland’s nine matches, Linger has the highest batting average of anyone in the competition.
Over the weekend he travelled to Canberra to play three matches against Australian Provincial and recorded nine hits from 16 times at bat and scored 11 runs.
“That equals 0.565 batting average,” he said.
For those who don’t understand the game, that is very high, especially when you consider he is a school kid playing against the best baseballers in the country.
Despite living in Grafton, Linger has been travelling to Lismore for weekend baseball for four years along with his brother Matthew and they have been regulars in the Norths first grade side.
Both will return to play with Norths again this season.