Ken Griffey, Jr.
It won’t be long.
The Seattle Mariners have until Aug. 17 to sign Ackley, a Walnut Cove native, who was selected No. 2 overall in this year’s Major League Baseball Draft.
After signing, Ackley will likely land on one of the Mariners’ minor league affiliate teams.
Don’t expect him to hang around there for very long.
On draft night, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said Ackley, a three-time All American who shattered several records during his three years at North Carolina, has the ability to hit in the middle of Seattle’s lineup.
He didn’t set a timetable but some scouts have said less than a year.
Seeking offensive punch, the Mariners snagged the best slugger in college baseball.
Rarely does Ackley not get the barrel of the bat on the ball and when he does it either finds the gap or the bleachers.
Opposing pitchers approached Ackley differently than anyone else in Carolina’s lineup.
Yet time and time again, he made the adjustments.
Soon he’ll get his shot at major league pitching.
Ackley seems a natural for the big leagues.
At the collegiate level, he always handled his success with class.
Tar Heels’ fans showed their appreciation with a rousing ovation for Ackley in his final game at Boshamer Stadium in the Super Regional against East Carolina.
The junior first baseman came out of the dugout and graciously tipped his hat to the fans.
Days before the draft, Ackley was zeroed in on the College World Series.
It would be the Heels’ fourth consecutive trip to Omaha, Neb., and ultimately Carolina would come up shy again – falling to Arizona State in 10 innings, beating Southern Mississippi and then losing again to the Sun Devils in the double elimination tournament.
Ackley had a monster game against Southern Miss and finished his career as the Heels’ all-time leader in base hits and runs scored.
A brilliant career at Carolina had come to a close.
He’ll certainly go down as one of the all-time greats if not the best player to come out of Carolina.
Now the focus shifts back to business and contract negotiations between Seattle and Ackley’s representative Scott Boras.
Ackley could contribute in the outfield for the Mariners. He was moved to first base at Carolina prior to this season after having Tommy John surgery.
The Mariners hadn’t had a pick as high as Ackley at No. 2 overall since 1993, when they took Alex Rodriguez.
Seattle would take two more players from North Carolina (Kyle Seager, 82 overall and Brian Moran, 203 overall) and a player from N.C. State (James Gilheeny, 233 overall).
Ackley will soon be living the baseball players’ dream in the beautiful pacific northwest – trading games at ACC sites for major league parks like Safeco Field, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and Camden Yards.
Playing alongside Griffey, Jr. (12-time All Star) and Ichiro (eight-time All Star).
The media spotlight will shine even brighter. National baseball writers are already gushing over Ackley, who doesn’t say much.
His baseball bat takes care of that.
This will be a year Ackley, his family and Stokes County won’t soon forget.