Former Spain Park player Colton Ledbetter drafted in second round by Rays

Published 9:53 am Thursday, July 20, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

SEATTLE – Colton Ledbetter got to live out his childhood dream of being drafted by an MLB team when he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the second round of the 2023 MLB Draft on Monday, July 10.

Ledbetter was one of seven players in attendance at the draft at Lumen Field in Seattle, home of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, during MLB All-Star Week.

“It was surreal. I feel like I’m still on cloud nine right now, but it was an unbelievable experience,” Ledbetter told MLB Network after being drafted. “I’ve been dreaming about this since I picked up a whiffle ball bat when I was 4-years old. So, it was incredible.”

Ledbetter, who graduated from Spain Park and most recently played college baseball at Mississippi State, was the 55th overall pick in the draft. Ledbetter was one of the top prospects in the draft, as he was ranked 49th in the MLB Pipeline prospect rankings among 2023 draft-eligible players, and when his name was called, the moment was a big sigh of relief for him and his family.

“He had gone to the combine and he had 16 interviews with 16 of the different pro teams,” Colton’s father Fred Ledbetter said. “And as the draft moved along, the anxiety and the butterflies built because you don’t have any idea when you’re going to be called or if you’re going to be called. So, when his name was called for the Tampa Bay Rays, we just were so excited because that’s one of the teams that I really was hoping would get him and they did, thank goodness.”

Ledbetter signed his minor league contract with the Rays on Tuesday, July 18 for a signing bonus of $1.3 million. The Rays have not assigned him to a minor league affiliate yet.

Ledbetter was one of the best players in the county and the state during his time at Spain Park. He established himself as a star as a junior in 2019 when he hit for a .388 average while leading the county in OPS with 1.366, tied for the home run lead with seven and also led in stolen bases with 27, runs with 44, walks with 33 and triples with seven.

During that season, he also scored runs at an incredibly efficient pace, crossing home plate 44 times off 40 hits. He earned an All-County First Team spot thanks to his efforts.

Ledbetter improved on those numbers as a senior by earning a .414 average off four home runs, 18 runs and 14 RBIs before the 2020 season ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which gave him another All-County First Team spot.

Ledbetter eventually transferred to Mississippi State before his junior season, which was a lifelong dream come true for Ledbetter, who had played baseball since his father put a bat in his hands at age two and grew up going to the SEC Tournament at the Hoover Met every May.

“I dreamed of (playing SEC baseball) growing up,” Ledbetter said. “I grew up in Hoover, Alabama, so I always went to the SEC Tournament whenever I got out of school, always dreamed of playing there, so it was very important to me.”

Ledbetter hit for a .320 average in 53 starts and 197 at-bats, hitting 12 home runs, 63 hits, 52 runs and 52 RBIs. He also earned a .574 slugging percentage and .452 on-base percentage as the Bulldogs finished with a 27-26 record in 2023.

Ledbetter started his collegiate career at Samford for two seasons where he showed promise during his freshman year in 12 starts in 31 appearances with a .271 average. He then exploded as a sophomore after hitting .318 while starting all 57 games, leading all Samford players with 67 hits, 16 home runs, 57 RBIs and 51 runs.

He also set a Samford and SoCon record with 9 RBIs in a single game against Western Carolina by going 3-for-4 with three-run home runs in back-to-back at-bats. He repeated the feat against Western Carolina in the SoCon Tournament with a 5-for-5 day with back-to-back three-run home runs and 9 RBIs.

He then followed in Spain Park coach Brooks Dunn’s footsteps and played in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, one of the top summer collegiate leagues in the country. A First Team All-Star appearance in the NECBL as well as an All-Conference selection in the SoCon earned him a transfer to Mississippi State for his junior year.

Ledbetter’s parents were happy with the selection, as they believe that the Rays are a great organization for their son to come up through.

“We’re extremely satisfied with the Tampa Bay Rays getting him,” Fred Ledbetter said. “We’ve looked at their organization prior to all of this and some others. But Tampa Bay and they have a great organization and he is ready. He’s ready to move on to the next level, and we’re excited for him.

“I wanted Colton to be hopefully drafted by a team that would be a good fit for him, that needs outfielders, a bat and that has good development and a career path to the majors.”