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Tuesday, June 13, 2006 | The moment the Padres called Matt Antonelli’s name in the amateur baseball draft last week with the 17th pick of the first round, we learned what the club thinks about the Wake Forest third baseman’s potential.

But instead of asking Grady Fuson, the San Diegan from Kearny High charged with developing a Padres farm system similar to the one he helped build in 19 years serving the Oakland A’s, I thought I’d ask someone with an everyday view of Antontelli. He doesn’t have the educated scout’s eye of Fuson, but he is someone who has soaked up Antonelli’s intangibles.

Wake Forest’s Allan Dykstra, the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year and Freshman All-American first baseman from Rancho Bernardo High, also is someone who grew up watching the Padres. He knows the franchise’s history of failing to plug a perennial hole in the lineup at third.

“I was excited when the Padres drafted him,” Dykstra said. “I said, ‘Oh, yeah!’ Everyone describes him as a pure athlete, and he is the real deal. You see this guy hit and play the field and the only thing you can say is, ‘Wow!’ He impresses you the first time you see him and he keeps impressing you.”

The right-handed Antonelli, an All-ACC first-team pick who signed Monday with the Padres, hit .333 (73-for-219) with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs in 55 games. The 6-foot, 198-pound junior led the team in runs scored (64), hits (73), doubles (18) and stolen bases (15).

“He’s solid muscle and can play any position,” Dykstra said. “He runs well, hits and hits for power. He hit 11 home runs, which is a lot, but I think he has the power to hit more. A lot of his home runs were opposite field. If he’s got opposite field power, he’s got pull power. People underestimate that. He’s not Troy Glaus or Scott Rolen -an imposing figure – but he can really swing it.”

As a teammate, Dykstra says Antonelli helped him quickly adapt to the college game. Just one year out of Rancho Bernardo, the left-handed hitting Dykstra batted .324 (60-for-185) in 55 games and his 15 home runs ranked second in the ACC, one of the nation’s most talented baseball conferences.

“You can ask Matt anything, and he knows a ton of baseball,” Dykstra said. “I would sit down and talk with him about hitting and fielding. Sometimes we’d talk when we were next to each other on deck. He’s very knowledgeable about the game.”

A year ago Dykstra was playing in the shadow of teammate John Drennen – the Cleveland Indians’ 2005 first-round draft pick who last week hit a home run off future Hall-of-Fame pitcher Roger Clemens in a Class A minor league game that Clemens used to prepare for his return to the Houston Astros roster – as the Broncos won the CIF San Diego Section Division I title.

Now Dykstra is carving out his own identity. He was a second-team All-ACC pick in addition to his Rookie-of-the-Year award and Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American honor. The 6-foot-5, 206-pounder was named the NCAA Player of the Week on April 3 when he batted .786 (11-for-14) with five home runs and 11 RBI. The week included three home runs against Davidson to tie a school record.

His final numbers included leading the Demon Deacons in slugging percentage (.670), on-base percentage (.479), RBIs (56), home runs (15), walks (51) and sacrifice flies (9). His on-base percentage and walks are numbers sure to catch attention of Fuson and his boss, club president Sandy Alderson, when Dykstra is eligible for the draft in two years.

A month ago, when general manager Kevin Towers was scouting the ACC tournament, Dykstra took the opportunity to introduce himself.

“I would love to play for the Padres,” Dykstra said. “I’ve always been a fan, and I’ve known (manager) Bruce Bochy since I was about 6-years-old.”

You”e probably wondering how a kid who loves San Diego ended up at Wake Forest, a small private school in Winston-Salem, N.C. It’s not one of those “Wake-was-the-only-place-that-wanted-me” stories.

Dykstra was an All-CIF pick at Rancho Bernardo. He turned down Stanford and UCLA. His academic record as a student with plans to attend college – 4.1 GPA with a 1,330 SAT score – knocked him down in the draft to the 34th round by the Boston Red Sox.

Ironically, it was his potential as a pitcher before he hurt his arm as a sophomore in high school that ultimately landed him at Wake Forest. Demon Deacons pitching coach Chris Sinacori was formerly coaching at Arizona State. When Wake’s staff was looking forward someone to fill a hole at first base, Sinacori remembered Dykstra from an ASU camp. The job was Dykstra’s to lose.

“Other teams said I would be in the mix at first base, but if I was going to be learning to play in college I’d rather be playing all the time,” Dykstra said. “When I went on my visit, I loved the school.”

One season later Dykstra has a national profile in college baseball, and he can tell us more about the Padres’ first-round pick than just about anybody but Grady Fuson, a man he hopes to impress the next couple of years as much as Antonelli did.

Tom Shanahan is voiceofsandiego.org’s sports columnist. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions. You can e-mail him at toms@sdhoc.com. Or send a letter to the editor.

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