The uproar over Andrew Luck’s decision to stay at Stanford and put the NFL on hold for a year brings back thoughts about the circumstances surrounding TCU lefthanded pitcher Matt Purke, who will once again be the ace of the Horned Frogs pitching staff in 2011. That’s no small deal considering the Frogs hold a pre-season #1 ranking.
People wonder out loud, “How can anyone say no to that kind of money?” Luck was looking at a monstrous bonus if, as most believed, he were to become the top pick in the NFL draft. He turned it down to stay one more year in college and graduate with his degree before starting his NFL career. He’s banking on A) the NFL still being in business in April of 2012 when he will enter the draft, and B) a degree from Stanford guaranteeing him a six figure gig in the real world if the NFL disbands or his right arm falls off. Not a bad strategy, if you ask me.
Although there are obvious differences in their circumstances, Purke did something very similar a year and a half ago as a high schooler when he said no to a $4 mil signing bonus from the Texas Rangers after being the 14th pick in the baseball draft. Instead, he opted to enroll at TCU. He’s not likely to get his degree any time soon, but the sophomore lefty will still have benefited substantially from his time in college.
All Purke did as a freshman at TCU was go 16-0 and lead his team to the College World Series. He was handled carefully by head coach Jim Schlossnagle and pitching coach Randy Mazey, who made sure he did not pitch too many innings and that he was able to get better and better as the season progressed. His first season could not have turned out any better for him.
This year, Purke is eligible for the MLB draft again after his sophomore season because he’ll be 21 years old (normally players have to complete their junior year to be drafted again out of college.) If he has another year like he did last season, Purke is likely to go in the top five of this year’s June draft, and will be looking at a signing bonus in the neighborhood of $6 mil. In other words, pitching two seasons in a top flight college program will have earned him an extra $ 2 mil. Not too shabby.
More importantly, his two years pitching for the Frogs will be like pitching four or five seasons in the minor leagues. Instead of starting out in Rookie ball or low Class A, Purke will probably go straight to double A and be maybe a year away from the big leagues. If he would have taken the Ranger’s bonus and signed out of high school, Purke would not have been heard from again until around 2015.
Simple fact: The objective is to get to the major leagues. That’s where the REAL money is and that’s were every true competitor wants to end up sooner rather than later. The fast path to the major leagues is through college, not through the minors. Go back and look at the minor league stints of the guys who signed out of high school. Some of them are down on the farm for six years or more. Then check out the path taken by players who come out of big time college programs. It’s not close.
So obviously, Matt Purke made a brilliant decision when he opted to go to TCU and not sign directly out of high school. He had faith in his own ability, and knew that what the Rangers were offering him – and more – would still be there in two years. He also knew that by pitching for the Frogs for two seasons he’d accelerate his time table to reach the big leagues.
THAT’S why you can say no to “that kind of money.”
The best part? When the MLB team that drafts Matt Purke gives him a seven figure signing bonus next April, they will be handing it to a 21-year-old college kid, not a 19-year-old wet behind the ears high schooler who has no clue about the real world and no idea about what to do with the money. Yes, those two years in Fort Worth ARE that important to a young man’s development.
It’s a win-win-win scenario. You just wish there were more kids (and parents) out there who could see past the immediate gratification and the dollar signs of a signing bonus and look at the big picture. If they did, more would make decisions like Andrew Luck and Matt Purke did and the games we watch would be better for it.