Zach Rutherford signs with Tampa Bay Rays, reports to rookie ball

ODU shortstop Zach Rutherford

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - Old Dominion shortstop Zach Rutherford, a Western Branch High School alumnus, was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the sixth round (169th overall) of Major League Baseball's amateur draft Tuesday. He's the highest-drafted ODU baseball player since Ryan Yarbrough was selected 111th overall in the 2014 MLB draft.

"I woke up really early and couldn't fall back asleep, " Rutherford told News 3. "I was a little anxious, but excited to see how the day played out. And when my name was finally called, it was just a big sigh of relief. I'm very excited that I'll get to play professional baseball - it's something I've always dreamed of."

UPDATE (Thursday June 22): Rutherford signed with the Rays and has reported to Princeton, NJ to join the Princeton Rays - Rookie Appalachian League affiliate of Tampa Bay. Rutherford expects to make his professional debut Thursday at Pulaski.

Rutherford, a finalist for the Brooks Wallace Award (given to the nation's top shortstop), hit .332 with 25 doubles, two home runs and 56 RBIs this season en route to First Team All-Conference USA honors. The 25 doubles currently rank third in the NCAA, while his 56 RBIs are in the top 60 nationally.

ODU shortstop Zach Rutherford

One of the nation's most sure-handed shortstops, Rutherford also excelled in the field. The C-USA Defensive Player of the Year led the conference with 196 assists, 28 more than any other player in the league, while committing just five errors. Rutherford's .982 fielding percentage is a new single-season school record for shortstops.

"All the work Coach [Chris] Finwood and Coach [Karl] Nonemaker put in to me at Old Dominion the past three years - they really helped me grow as a baseball player offensively and defensively," Rutherford explained. "They've helped me be myself on the baseball field and off and helped me develop during the past three years."

During the summer of 2016, Zach was an All-League selection for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks of the Cape Cod League, hitting .278 with four home runs, 20 RBIs and five stolen bases. He also earned MVP honors of the Cape Cod League All-Star game.

Rutherford recently completed his junior season at ODU. However, he plans to return to school and finish his degree.

"You go down the list and there's so many great baseball players from this area who have made a living in the major leagues," Rutherford said when asked about being the latest in a long line of players from Hampton Roads, Chesapeake specifically, to be drafted. "Ultimately that's the goal - to make a living playing in the major leagues one day. The work starts now."