Will Kline: 'I'm staying'

Two months ago Will Kline was just looking for more innings to pitch. Then came the Mayor's Trophy Game and a 1-0 shutout win over Mississippi State. Since then his stock his risen with the scouts. Tomorrow is draft day, but Kline has bowed out. He will pitch for the Ole Miss Rebels in 2007.

If you were concerned that Will Kline might not be back in an Ole Miss baseball uniform next season, worry no more.

Kline, for the last month the "ace" of a young Rebel pitching staff, said today he's staying at Ole Miss for next season. The 2006 Major League Baseball draft is tomorrow.

"Just a gut feeling I had," said the 6-foot-3, 215-pound righthander from Tupelo. "My parents and I have been talking about it for a while. They talked to some scouts and advisors. Ultimately the decision came down to me and how I felt. I wanted to do what was right in my heart."

His bottom line sounded so simple.

"I'm having a great time here, and we have a good thing going. So I thought I'd stick around for another year," Kline said matter of factly and confidently.

As several of us talked to him in the dugout before practice today, he seemed very satisfied and happy with his decision. Even though it all sounded so easy, you know it had to be tough. This is a young adult's college and professional life we're talking about, and any move, right or wrong, could mean millions, one way or another, in the long run.

A third-year sophomore whose birthdate is Sept. 10, 1984, Kline is draft-eligible because he is at least 21 years of age and is in his third year of college.

But being only a sophomore in eligibility means he has some draft leverage next year at this time.

"I am 21 and in my third year of college, so I'm eligible now," he said. "I don't really care about the leverage. I'm telling you, this is just a gut feeling to stay."

But Kline's decision to come back is as solid as it can be.

"I just didn't want to get out to pro ball and have any regrets and any doubts in my mind that I wanted to be back here," he said. "Why would I want to leave a place I love?"

Kline, with a 5-2 record and a 3.02 ERA, will likely still get drafted, but not nearly as high as he would have if he hadn't made it known he was not leaving college. Kline gave an example from last year.

"Like Cody Satterwhite," Kline said. "He did the same thing coming out of high school. He was a bigtime recruit. The scouts were all over him. His family sent out a letter that said he was going to college."

Satterwhite was still drafted. After being projected to go much higher, the Hillcrest Christian right-hander went in the 37th round to the Indians, and of course came on to school at Ole Miss.

Kline said starting with the Mayor's Trophy Game in Jackson, things have gone much better for him, as everyone knows. But in some ways, things tightened up a bit.

"It made things more difficult as well," he said. "The more I pitched, the more guys saw me. There were more calls and letters. Lately it was getting stressful, and I was getting tired of it."

No doubt this was a kid who wanted to stay in college and pitch. The last couple of months have given Kline renewed enthusiasm about playing for the Ole Miss Rebels.

"I know this is a decision he's given a lot of thought to," said Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco. "It's exciting. He's a super-talented kid, and it takes a lot of guts to do what he did. I know he's very happy with the decision and that it's the best thing for him. He loves it here, and he wants to come back to school. You have to respect that. I think it's terrific."

Kline says it's not just about next year; it's also about the rest of this year with perhaps more big things ahead.

"It's been an awesome ride," Kline said. "I'm already looking forward to next year. But to be honest, all I'm thinking about is the next game, and that's Miami.

"I just felt," Kline concluded, "that it wasn't my time to leave."

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