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Longoria's dream comes true

Longoria's dream comes true

DOWNEY, Calif. --- It was just another party at Belinda Lands' home. Well, not really. Belinda had played hostess for her son Adam and his friends for over 12 years and Tuesday one of the boys in the neighborhood was going to make some big news. Evan Longoria, the highly touted infielder from Long Beach State, was going to be drafted by a Major League club and what better way to celebrate it than with another party.

When you pulled up to the Lands' home, draped across the front door was a big banner reading "Congratulations Evan Longoria 2006 MLB Draft Pick." The 20-year-old Longoria was inside, surrounded by friends and family. It's 9:50 a.m. PT and the draft will start in 10 minutes and Longoria, who started getting a lot of attention from the scouts when he was named the most valuable player of the Cape Cod League last summer, seems very relaxed.

"I've been on the phone with my advisor, trying to gage who wants you and how things are going," said Longoria. "There are also the butterflies thinking about what's going to happen. It really hasn't set in yet; I'm sure the realization is going to happen in about 10 minutes."

"This is what he's wanted to do since he was 4 years old," said his father, Michael, who coached his son until he got into high school. "He wasn't drafted out of high school and he's flown under the radar for so long. I'm just glad he's finally getting the attention he deserves."

The morning had been very busy, with more than 50 friends and relatives arriving around 8:30 a.m.; video crews from MLB.com, KABC Channel 7 and KNBC Channel 4 in Los Angeles were setting up their lights and rearranging furniture in Belinda's living room to get the right angle when the draft began.

"Pretty much all my best friends are here," said Longoria. "I couldn't have asked for a better setting; my family's here, my aunts, my uncles, old coaches and it's great to see everybody."

One of the coaches who showed up was Rio Hondo Junior College coach Mike Salazar, who told Longoria and his family that Evan's No. 3 that he wore in 2004 was going to be retired.

"I didn't even know that was going to happen," said Longoria, with a big smile on his face. "It was a big surprise and it's just adding to what should be a fun day."

A few more minutes until the draft begins and Evan's mother Ellie is getting jittery.

"I'm just very nervous," said Ellie. "Once they call his name I think I'll settle down and have more fun. Watching Evan play all these years has been fun; I'm a big baseball fan. He's always loved the game, he still loves the game and I'm just very proud of him."

At 9:59 a.m., Longoria takes his seat in front of a big-screen TV that's been hooked up to MLB.com so that everyone in attendance can watch the draft show. As MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Jimmie Lee Solomon announces the first pick, Luke Hochevar was selected by the Royals, Longoria leans forward, staring at the screen.

Solomon announces the next choice, Greg Reynolds of Stanford, is now a member of the Rockies.

Longoria leans little more forward, knowing that Tampa Bay had been interested in him for a quite a while.

Solomon makes the announcement: "With the third pick of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays select Evan..." and bedlam ensued in the household, you couldn't even hear "Longoria" as Evan bounded out of his chair, pumping both arms in the air and high-fiving everyone around him. His dad had to wade through the throngs of people hugging one another to give his son a half-hug before more hands stuck out for Evan to slap. Finally he went back to his chair and took a deep breath.

"This is definitely a thrill," said Evan after catching his breath for a moment. "All the talks and everything; you never really know what's going to happen. Just to see your name pop up to solidify yourself is awesome.

"Being No.3 overall and coming from where I came from is awesome. I can't even put it into words; I'm so excited. This was the best road for me. I really wasn't developed as a player, especially out of high school. Going to Rio Hondo and Long Beach State was the best decision and now I'm mentally and physically ready to go; let's see what happens."

A moment later, Longoria's cell phone starts ringing and he starts taking an endless stream of phone calls.

"I feel great," says a relieved Ellie Longoria. "All the pressure is off. Of course we want him to be able to move up and become an everyday player, but he's been given a wonderful opportunity and we're very proud of him -- and now I'm relaxed. It's Evan's dream and we are just happy he's able to pursue it."

Thirty minutes later some friends are already leaving; others are out back at the pool enjoying a little bit of the sun that briefly cut through the annual June gloom of Southern California. Evan is still simultaneously chatting with friends and taking phone calls.

"He got a little sleep last night; none of us are going to get much tonight," said Michael. "The whole family's on a nine o'clock flight to Tampa Bay. Evan has a long day ahead of him tomorrow, too, but this should be a lot of fun for all of us."

Just then Belinda walks by. "Please take a party favor home with you." It's a baseball wrapped in clear plastic signed by Evan. "Who knows they may be worth something one day," says Belinda, with a big smile that only a true den mother could have.

Yup, this was one neighborhood party that a lot of people are going to remember.

Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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