College

Monday, Jun 04 2012 08:59 PM

Local baseball stars waiting for the call

BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer zewing@bakersfield.com

In the next two days, a number of Kern County athletes could see their cell phones light up with the call of their lives or see their name pop up on a Major League Baseball website for the thrill of their lives.

"No lie, it's very exciting," said Mark Peterson, father to Brent Peterson, one of several local prospects hoping to get taken in the MLB Draft that began with Monday's first round and continues today and Wednesday.

But after that excitement wears off, then comes the decision. And it's not an easy one.

Many of Bakersfield's top high school seniors, and several Bakersfield College players -- including Peterson and 2010 Californian Player of the Year Tyler Painton -- have signed to play baseball at major universities.

If they get drafted, they'll have to choose between the college offer and a lucrative signing bonus. The deadline to sign is July 13.

Signing bonuses are substantial, but force prospects to forgo college, a chance at an education and the possibly a future signing bonus could be even bigger if they're drafted out of college.

On the other hand, if a prospect under-performs or is seriously injured playing college baseball, his stock could plummet and his chances at being a pro could evaporate.

"It certainly changes the dynamic," Centennial coach Randy Roberts said. "Sometimes, the scouts say, 'If we can steal him out of high school, we will.' If they can offer something and the guy doesn't want to go to college, it can happen."

Brent Peterson, a shortstop who played at Bakersfield Christian and North before graduating from Liberty, played college ball at Army before transferring to Bakersfield College. Now he's signed with Oklahoma, but he's also expected to go within the first 10 rounds of the draft (rounds 2-15 are today beginning at 9 a.m., with the final 25 rounds Wednesday).

"We really don't know anything, but we're hoping top 10 rounds," Mark Peterson said. "That's what we've heard from three or four scouts."

Per MLB's new collective bargaining agreement, teams have a limited pool of money they can use to sign picks from the first 10 rounds. After that, the max signing bonus for a draft pick is $100,000 unless there is money left over from the pool. If teams go over the pool limit, they can be taxed and stripped of future draft picks.

Conversely, the more money a pick with a college spot gets, the more likely he is to give up that spot.

"We said top 10 rounds and to give us a call if he falls after that," Mark Peterson said.

Centennial shortstop Brody Russell has signed with Fresno State, but Baseball America lists him among its top 500 draft prospects, and Roberts said scouts attended Centennial games well after Russell had signed.

"They were still asking me questions after our last game (a playoff loss to Clovis East in which Russell hit two home runs)," Roberts said. "If they offered him something great, I could see him going. But I also know he wants to be a Bulldog pretty bad."

Peterson, Russell and Painton -- who played at BC this year and has signed with Oregon State for next -- are joined by several other local prospects who could face a college vs. pro choice.

Frontier outfielder Kyle Nixon has signed with Cal State Bakersfield. Bakersfield Christian shortstop A.J. Ramirez is set to go to USC, and his teammate, pitcher Casey Bloomquist, has signed with Cal Poly.

It's tough to predict professional drafts -- especially more than 10 rounds in advance -- but it seems likely that Peterson will go first among locals.

But that's the easy part. Then comes the decision.

"It's really up to him," Mark Peterson said. "It's his call, his time. God's got a plan, and it's all going to work out."

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