Middlebrooks debating decision

A&M signee Will Middlebrooks will make the biggest decision of his life so far in the coming weeks--to play baseball at Texas A&M? Or sign with the Boston Red Sox, who drafted Middlebrooks in the fifth round of this year's draft. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop visited with Middlebrooks and his father about the decision.

The college baseball season may be recently concluded, but don't think for a minute that coaches and their staffs are on vacation taking it easy for the summer. This is a critical period for baseball coaches, given that many talented incoming freshman signees and juniors who were recently selected in the 2007 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft are in the heat of negotiations with pro clubs. The same is especially true for A&M coach Rob Childress. The success of the 2008 season could hinge on the decisions of a few players such as All-American Blake Stouffer and lefty pitcher David Newmann.

And then there is incoming freshman Will Middlebrooks, who is considered one of the top high school baseball talents to come out of the Lone Star state this year and would likely be an immediate contributor on a team many feel could be better than last year's Super Regional qualifier. He was selected in the fifth round by the Boston Red Sox, and now has a tough choice to make between accepting a cash signing bonus that will change his financial future immediately, or attend Texas A&M and have the experiences and memories that most college students cherish for a lifetime.

"It's a tough decision. It's been a dream of mine to play pro baseball, but I've grown up a big Aggie fan and I'd like to go to Texas A&M too," Middlebrooks said. "I fell in love with Texas A&M the first time I stepped on campus."

The Liberty Eylau product is a superb all-around athlete, excelling as an all-state football player as well as an all-state selection in baseball . The 6-foot-4, 210-pound shortstop had a productive senior season and is considered by scouts to be a five tool player—someone with a well-rounded skill set that includes a great arm, power, and speed.

Middlebrooks finished the season hitting .555 with 7 homeruns, 23 doubles, 48 RBI's, 57 walks, and 23 stolen bases.

"I see the ball well and I can pick up the ball quickly," Middlebrooks said. " I like to take what the pitcher gives me and spray the ball to all fields. Our coach is big on that. In the field, I'd say my biggest asset is my arm strength. I can make a lot of throws from the shortstop position."

Speaking of arm strength, Middlebrooks was also the ace of the Leopards' pitching staff. His mid-90's fastball attracted some pro scouts as a pitcher as well.

"I've always had a good fastball that runs up to about 92-93 mph, but I learned to throw my changeup consistently for a strike and that made a big difference this season," Middlebrooks said. "I like to go out there and compete on the mound, but it comes second for me. I'm a natural shortstop, and that's where I'd like to focus."

While Middlebrooks has a tough decision to make in the coming weeks concerning whether to attend college or immediately play pro ball, his choice of college destination was much easier. Middlebrooks committed to the Aggies in July 2006.

"I grew up an A&M fan, and when I went down there for a quarterback camp a couple of years ago I knew that's where I wanted to go to school if I had the chance," Middlebrooks said. "It's just a great place, and you won't find a better group of coaches with Coach Childress and his staff. I'd be very comfortable there."

And that's the dilemma facing the 18 year-old prospect. The Red Sox are prepared to offer a nice six-figure signing bonus that will secure Middlebrooks' financial future for the coming years that includes paying for his college education if baseball doesn't pan out in the end.

"This has been the most hectic time of my life. This is a big decision that will change my life," Middlebrooks said. "I'm just ready to get this over with so I know what I'll be doing. I also understand that Coach Childress needs to know what my plans will be. My decision affects the team, so I'm hoping to give him an answer as soon as possible."

Middlebrooks was expected to be drafted somewhere between the late first round and the second round, and several clubs were close to taking him, but ultimately it was signability issues and his desire to attend Texas A&M that shied off several teams.

"We had several organizations contact us on draft day. Both Minnesota and Texas called us and were thinking seriously about taking Will in the No. 50-55 pick range," said Will's father, Tom MIddlebrooks. "The Braves also inquired about Will's signability."

But the Middlebrooks camp made it clear that it would take a special team and a special offer to keep Will from heading to Aggieland for a typical college life of a student.

"It's a big decision for Will to make. As with any kid his age, he'd like to go to college and gain those experiences," Tom Middlebrooks said. "But then there's the Red Sox. It's a great organization. We'll just have to see what happens."

Contrary to some reports, Mr. Middlebrooks says Boston hasn't delivered its contract offer yet, although that is expected later this week.

"We've talked to their local scout, and a cross-checker came down and worked out Will," Middlebrooks said. "The head scout is scheduled to be here on Tuesday and we'll see what he has to say. We should know more after he comes down."

But while the waiting and negotiating has taken its toll on the multi-talented baseball player, the younger Middlebrooks is also thankful for what he has in terms of opportunities.

"It wears on me a little that I don't know what I'm going to be doing in a couple of months and I can't make plans, but I'm thankful because this is a win-win situation for me," Middlebrooks said. "Either way I'm living out a dream. Texas A&M is a great place to go to school and play baseball and Boston is a great baseball organization. I can't go wrong."

The Middlebrooks hope to have a decision in the next couple of weeks. It may be the dog days of summer, but don't tell that to diehard Aggie baseball fans. This decision could impact the make-up of the Texas A&M baseball team for the next three years.




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