Bingham brings underdog mentality
Padres' 20th-round pick was star infielder at Indiana (Pa.)
SAN DIEGO -- Paul Bingham wasn't glued to his computer on Tuesday like most of the young baseball players that had the potential to be selected on Day 2 of the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
In fact, he wasn't even paying attention.
He was working.
The infielder, who just completed his senior season at Indiana University (Pa), a Division II school, is currently doing a summer internship at an oil and gas company in West Virginia and was busy with another day at the office.
So when Padres scout Andrew Salvo called Bingham to let him know that San Diego was picking him in the 20th round, Bingham didn't answer.
"I called the number back and [Salvo was] like, 'You missed my call, but you're our 20th-round pick,'" Bingham said. "It is funny, but it's brutal."
It's safe to say Bingham's summer plans have changed.
"Now I don't have to walk through the mountains of West Virginia," Bingham said. "I get to do something I love and get paid for it."
Bingham will enter the Padres' Minor League system as one of the best Division II prospects. He hit .463 during the 2010 season, led the nation with 12 triples and ranked second in stolen bases with 45. He also broke school records in hits (88), runs scored (70) and total bases (134).
"It's the season that I've always hoped for," Bingham said. "I worked hard all year long to prepare for it. I wanted to just go out and prove to people that I could play at the next level. All the hard work paid off, and I just wanted to kind of put IUP on the map."
For those marks, Bingham became the first IUP player in 20 years to be named a first-team Daktronics and National Collegiate Baseball Writers' All-American.
"He just has off-the-chart tools," IUP coach Jeff Ditch said. "He's a tall, athletic player with a great arm. You'll look at him and you'll think he could be a football player or a basketball player or a hockey player. He just has that all-around strong, athletic body that has just developed now into a really good baseball player."
And Ditch has coached or signed plenty of professional players -- 113 that have been drafted and 10 that have made the Major Leagues, to be exact. That includes former All-Star Kevin Youkilis when he was at the University of Cincinnati and current Padres third baseman Chase Headley when he was coaching in the Cape Cod League.
Ditch said Bingham already stacks up with those household names in some areas of the game.
"You can even say he's a better athlete than Kevin Youkilis, which I know is crazy," Ditch said. "He comes out of the batter's box harder than any player I've ever coached. Ground balls, pop-ups, balls in the gap, it doesn't matter. From home to first, he's going as hard as he can."
Padres director of scouting Jaron Madison echoed that he saw a wide array of skills when Bingham came to work out with the organization in Cincinnati earlier this year.
"He is an impressive kid on and off the field," Madison said. "His combination of athleticism, size, strength, speed and feel for the game is exactly what we are looking to add to our organization. His intelligence, work ethic and makeup give him a chance to reach his potential and get the most out of his tools."
Still, all of Bingham's eye-popping college numbers came while playing in Division II. But Bingham's always been proving himself, and he knows that won't change at the professional level.
"I feel like I could possibly be overlooked [in the pros] because I'm from a small school," Bingham said. "There's always going to be something there in my head that's there with me, that I want to prove myself. I've always been the underdog."
In any case, Bingham can go ahead and quit his day job for now.
Gina Mizell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.