Hurley Choosing Books, Buckeyes Over Buses

Faced with the choice of a lifetime, Zach Hurley appears to be ready to choose a final year in scarlet and gray over professional baseball. The Ohio State junior, who was chosen by the Florida Marlins in the June baseball amateur draft, said that completing his degree and suiting up again for the Buckeyes are priorities in his decision-making process.

There's a saying that you can't put a price on education, but Ohio State baseball player Zach Hurley has been given a chance to do that this summer.

Hurley, Ohio State's starting left fielder this past season as a junior, was a 45th-round pick of the Florida Marlins during this year's MLB first-year player draft in early June.

Negotiations between the Springboro, Ohio, native and the Marlins came down to a simple question: how much would it take for Hurley to give up his final season in scarlet and gray – and a chance to finish up the three quarters necessary to get his degree – to join the Marlins organization?

"Basically, the Marlins wanted to know a minimum dollar amount that I would be willing to sign for, so I had to sit down with my family and talk about what it would be worth to sacrifice my whole senior year of eligibility and all that good stuff," Hurley said.

So far, Florida has come up short of offering Hurley's number of $50,000 plus the money to finish his final year of school in the future, so for the time being the Buckeye is choosing education over his dream.

"It's just not worth it to me to give up everything," Hurley said. "As of right now, it looks like I will be coming back to Ohio State for my senior year, and I'm more than happy about doing that. I'd feel more comfortable taking $1,000, which I think is the minimum next year, and walking away with my education."

The Marlins will retain Hurley's rights through Aug. 17, but Hurley does not anticipate a deal.

"They could call me Aug. 16 and be like, ‘Hey, we got the money that you wanted,' " Hurley said. "Will that happen? I highly doubt it. The craziest thing about the whole thing is I could get a phone call at any time saying, ‘Hey, here's an offer,' and it just mixes everything up again. But as of now, it looks like I'm going to be at Ohio State."

Hurley said that the Marlins originally took him as a "draft and follow" player, hoping to watch his summer wooden-bat league performances before deciding what type of contract they would offer.

That idea hit a hole in the road because Hurley hadn't planned to play summer baseball, choosing instead to take a break and prepare for his last season at Ohio State.

"For me, if I'm going to go out and play two months of summer ball and get an offer at the end of the two months that I'm going to say no to, then really those two months could have been used to do other things to help my game," Hurley said. "I really didn't want to throw two months away like that.

"I've started (working out) the first day of summer. I've been doing that already – lifting like crazy, running, getting myself in shape, working on parts of my swing, getting my arm strength all the way back. I work in the mornings and from the afternoon until the evening getting ready to go."

Hurley came back from offseason arm surgery to have a breakout season for the Buckeyes. Hitting out of the leadoff spot and starting 59 of the team's 61 games, Hurley batted .346 with six homers and 53 RBI. He also led the Buckeyes with 14 stolen bases and was second on the team and fourth in the conference with 58 runs scored.

In addition, Hurley led the conference with six triples, posted an OPS of .931 and had 33 walks against 35 strikeouts.

He hopes to use the offseason work to improve on those numbers for his final season at OSU, which returns seven of nine starters on the field and ace pitcher Alex Wimmers from a squad that won the Big Ten regular season for the first time since 2001 and also reached the finals of an NCAA regional.

"We're going to be loaded," Hurley said. "We're going to be stacked. This year we were finally able to get Ohio State baseball back on the map, but that's just left me hungry for more. Sitting at home watching the College World Series, it sucks. Next year at that time, it's going to be us playing, and I'd love to be out there on that field with the guys doing it."

Nonetheless, the chance to see his name appear on a team's draft board was an experience Hurley will never forget.

"For someone to think that highly of you as a baseball player is the ultimate compliment you can get," he said. "I took a lot of pride in that, and I was ecstatic that that took place. It's every baseball player's dream. Just to have an opportunity to fulfill that dream has been awesome."

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