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By MATTHEW STEVENS
Brandon Woodruff said over a month ago that it would take a lot of money to pry him away from his signed National Letter-of-Intent to Mississippi State University.
On Monday the Bulldogs baseball signee showcased he wasn‚Äôt lying.
Woodruff, one of the best baseball prospects in the state of Mississippi, confirmed Monday afternoon in a phone interview he called the Texas Rangers organization to inform club officials he will not be signing a professional contract with the organization that selected him in the fifth round of the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve said before that I want to play college baseball,‚ÄĚ Woodruff said. ‚ÄúI want to get an education and have the college experience and that to me is worth more than signing a contract to begin a professional career.‚ÄĚ
While Woodruff declined to state what the exact amount was that Texas offered him to forego his college eligibility, the 18-year-old did say it was ‚Äúover $400,000‚ÄĚ, which would be the suggested slot price for a second round pick.
‚ÄúWe sat down as a family and just decided that you only get one chance to play college baseball and have that life experience,‚ÄĚ Woodruff said. ‚ÄúMississippi State is a place I‚Äôve always wanted to be and I couldn‚Äôt pass up this opportunity of a lifetime.‚ÄĚ
The next phone call Woodruff made on Monday afternoon was to Mississippi State head coach John Cohen to tell him the good news and have a little fun with his future coach in Starkville.
‚ÄúI called Coach Cohen and kind of played with him a little bit,‚ÄĚ Woodruff said. ‚ÄúI knew he would be excited so I told him I‚Äôd talked with Texas and paused before saying ‚ÄėI‚Äôm not signing so I guess you‚Äôll have to put up with me for at least 3 years. He told me I just made his day and that was a great moment.‚ÄĚ
Woodruff, a right-handed pitcher but left-handed bat, hit .618, with three home runs in his senior season at Wheeler High School while having three starts on the mound this year that included performances of 10, 14 and 15-strikeouts.
‚ÄúWoodruff is perhaps Mississippi State's most important recruit as a raw power arm,‚ÄĚ Baseball America senior editor John Manuel said. ‚ÄúHe has a fluid arm action and pro body at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, and he's a good athlete who also played basketball, leading to a late start to his baseball season. He had three straight double-digit strikeout starts in March and April, when he flashed a 94 mph fastball and showed the ability to spin a power curveball.‚ÄĚ
The right-handed pitcher/outfield prospect was one of two 2012 signees that would be deciding whether to sign a pro deal or attend college along with St. Stanislaus left-handed pitcher Jacob Lindgren.
According to Major League Baseball rules, Woodruff has until Aug. 15 to change his mind before his draft rights no longer belong to the team that drafted him. However, when asked if the Rangers could make a late push for his services, Woodruff said he his mind is ‚Äú100 percent
made up‚ÄĚ and will be required to play college baseball for three seasons before re-entering the draft again.
Woodruff will enter the 2012 season as the highest previously drafted Mississippi State player on the roster.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre really so pleased he wants to be a part of Mississippi State and the baseball program here that much,‚ÄĚ Cohen said.¬† ‚ÄĚWe‚Äôre thrilled to have him but I also think it‚Äôs important to point out that he saw the value in the overall Mississippi State experience.‚ÄĚ
Woodruff said Monday State‚Äôs coaching staff has told him that they will allow him the opportunity to potentially pitch late in relief and compete for a starting position either as a corner infielder or outfielder as a true freshman.
‚ÄúHe‚Äôs a very talented young man but even as talented as he is, everyone is different so as a freshman in the SEC, it will depend on how quickly he can make that adjustment,‚ÄĚ Cohen said.