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Draft decision

Posted: June 5, 2008 1:36 a.m.
Updated: August 6, 2008 5:03 a.m.

Hart graduate Michael Montgomery will be watching the MLB baseball draft today starting at 11 a.m. The left-handed pitcher is likely to be taken in the first three rounds and must make a decision to turn pro or go to Cal State Fullerton.

At 11 in the morning today, Michael Montgomery will gather with teammates, friends, and family in his living room, turn on his new big screen television to ESPN2 and at some point in the telecast will hear his name called.

It's almost a certainty that the 6-foot-5 southpaw from Hart High School will be drafted in the first three rounds. He's ranked No. 40 among ESPN's Keith Law's top 75 and even higher on some prognosticators' draft boards.

"It's a way exciting moment for Michael," Hart coach Jim Ozella said. "He's worked real hard to get in this position."

What's less certain is what Montgomery will do after the draft. And that's where the big decision comes in.

Life changing.

That's how big today will be for Montgomery. It could mean the difference between being a college kid or having close to a million dollars in his pocket right away (last year's No. 40 pick received a $765,000 signing bonus) Cal State Fullerton, where he signed and where he spent last Saturday watching the college baseball regionals, or the Minor Leagues.

"Ideally I would probably go pro," said Montgomery over the phone as he attempted a putt on the golf course. "I would have thought the opposite six months ago, but things change."

As Montgomery mowed down batters, striking out 99 and going 8-2 with a 1.41 ERA this season, more and more scouts flocked to his games. Suddenly, the possibility of a hefty paycheck along with a free ride to college appeared.

Of course, the professional ranks may still be there after the three years of college mandated before Montgomery will once again be draft eligible. But college will still be there also because Major League teams pay for college for players they draft and sign.

"If they're going to pay for my college, and give you a pretty good sum of money it's almost a better bet than college," Montgomery said.

But he loves Fullerton, loves the atmosphere, and wouldn't mind being a college kid. It's a win, win situation.

Whichever direction Montgomery decides is right for him, his dad David feels like there can't be a misstep.

"He really has no bad choices," said the elder Montgomery, a teacher at Hart. The toughest decision according to David was the choice of colleges.

Michael was down to Oregon and Fullerton before deciding to stay in California. This time around, the choice will be made for him.

"The decision whether to go pro or not is made by Thursday's (draft), they make that for us," David said. " We've set some parameters down."

Though he wouldn't discuss exactly what those parameters were, getting a phone call in the first two rounds might jeopardize Fullerton's chances of seeing Montgomery in a Titan uniform.

"If he gets drafted in the first round or second round, it's really an opportunity you can't turn down," David said.

Nearly 25 teams visited the Montgomery household in what has been a year long process. The Montgomery family has teamed with the TWC Corporation and Paul Cohen, an agent who represents Major League stars like Evan Longoria and Troy Tulowitzki, to set what David called a "spot and a monetary range that would be significant enough for Michael to get a good start in life without baseball."

Montgomery isn't the first Hart alum in this position. James Shields, now a pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays used to be David Montgomery's student and played for Ozella.

Because of injury concerns, however, he dropped and was selected in the 16th round out of high school. But he made the Majors and is now a budding star. When, Montgomery was 10-years old, Shields worked with him on his hitting. When he came back to Hart in the offseason this year, Shields gave Montgomery advice.

"He told me it's a business and you have to work," Montgomery said.

Montgomery, armed with three pitches and a fastball in the 90s, as well as the help of a Hart pitcher who's in a similar position, is now at the mercy of general managers and scouts.

"God's blessed him, how many guys are 6-5 and throw left handed into the 90s?" David said.

Ultimately, if it doesn't work out in baseball, there's always basketball, David joked.

"I've always kidded him, Michael if you ever got up to be drafted and if you go and you get hurt and you can't play baseball anymore, you can always come back and play basketball at Master's college."


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