UT baseball signee makes decision

As coach Dave Serrano attempts to get the Tennessee baseball program back to its winning ways and earn trips to the Southeastern Conference and NCAA tournaments, he needs talent to do so. Sign in or subscribe now to read about the decision of his most-heralded prep prospect in weighing professional baseball.

How many kids grow up dreaming to play in the Major Leagues? Maybe not as many as in the past but baseball is still one of our country's most popular sports.

After deciding to forgo his college commitment to Tennessee and sign with the Boston Red Sox, shortstop Mookie Betts wasn't exactly beaming.

When asked if he was excited, the Nashville native simply said: "Uh, I think so. I think so."

Betts' reaction shows how gut-wrenching the decision was for the 18-year-old in choosing between competing for the Volunteers or heading on to the minor leagues with the Red Sox.

"It was real hard," Betts said of turning down Tennessee. "I had dreams and stuff about putting on that uniform, but I guess you've got to do what you've got to do."

Leading up to the start of the fall semester on Rocky Top, Betts said he heard from Vol coach Dave Serrano often.

"He said just do what you think is best for yourself," Betts said.

He and his family wanted to make sure the financial incentive was worthwhile if the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association All-State selection was going to pass on playing in the Southeastern Conference. They asked for a seven-figure signing bonus. They settled for $750K.

The contract negotiations basically didn't exist until the final hour or two before the midnight deadline for Tuesday morning. Betts said the offer he accepted didn't arrive until 20-30 minutes prior to the deadline.

Betts, listed at 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, was not told what position Boston has in mind for him to play, where he will report nor when he will report. A busy day in the Red Sox front office likely didn't allow time for hitting on those topics.

The Red Sox have a team in the Gulf Coast League at the rookie level in Fort Myers, Fla. Teams in the GCL cannot have more than four players over 21 years of age and cannot have more than 12 over 20. Thus, it would seem like a solid fit for a signee out of the prep ranks.

Although action in the GCL is many years and countless miles' worth of bus rides from big league action, Betts said the prospect of one day taking the field officially at Fenway Park in Boston thrills him.

"That's great. I mean I played on the field one time but it was nothing compared to playing on the field with the stands full," said Betts, who participated in a workout with other draftees.

The former Overton High School standout said he plans on keeping in touch with many of the Tennessee players that he has gotten to know, including Jared Allen, David Horne, Logan Moore and Parker Wormsley.

As a senior at Overton, Betts batted .509 with 39 RBIs and 29 stolen bases. His bat control, speed and athletic ability give him a shot at climbing the ladder through the minors.

He competed this summer with Dulin's Dodgers and helped the team make it to the semifinals of the 192-team field in the Perfect Game 18-Under World Wood Bat Association National Championship.

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