3/04/2008 12:22:00 AM

Yankees Sign Young Catcher/1st Baseman

Posted by Mark McCray |

Just days after signing a contract to join the Florence Freedom for the upcoming season, former University of Cincinnati baseball star Neall French agreed to a minor league deal with the New York Yankees.

French, a power-hitting catcher/first baseman from Bay Village, Ohio, wrapped up his collegiate career in 2007 with a .343 average, 11 home runs and 65 runs batted in for a UC team that finished with a 28-28 overall mark.

"We're in the player development business so we're very excited when one of our players gets a chance to further his career," said Freedom manager Jamie Keefe, who's entering his fourth season in Florence. "We were very excited about the prospect of adding a bat like Neall's to our lineup this season so we can certainly understand why the Yankees are making this move. Neall has been a part of winning teams throughout his career, and I have no doubt he'll do well for the Yankees' organization."

French, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-handed hitter, went undrafted in June's MLB Draft of amateur players. Earlier in his career French was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 38th round in 2003, but decided not to sign and returned to college. That selection came after French's freshman season in which he helped Grand Rapids (Mich.) Community College to a national championship, earning a spot on the Junior College World Series all-tournament team. French also earned NJCAA Division II All-American honors after establishing school and conference records for batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.

French transferred to Triton (Ill.) Community College for his sophomore year before moving on to UC for his final two collegiate seasons. While slowed by injuries during his junior season, French batted just .221 in 77 at-bats with a home run and five RBIs. He sat out the 2006 season as a redshirt before bouncing back with a strong finish last spring.

As a senior at St. Ignatius High School near Cleveland, French was a member of a state champion team. St. Ignatius barely missed winning another championship during French's sophomore season, finishing as state runner-up.

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