As one of Baseball America's top 100 draft prospects, Miami prep catcher Steven Baron was easily one of the top commits the Blue Devils have landed in recent years. But MLB teams were just as interested in the South Florida product, and one month after the Seattle Mariners tabbed Baron with the draft's 33rd overall pick, a near-million dollar bonus and the chance to jump straight to the pros proved too good to pass up.
According to Baseball America, Baron signed on the dotted line with Seattle, landing a $980,000 bonus. Although draft day speculation had it that the M's had targeted Baron because he would be relatively easy to sign, the bonus figure is over $40,000 above MLB's recommended "slot" bonus of $936,000 for the 33rd pick of the draft.
A big check isn't the only perk that Baron's contract includes. The Mariners have committed to pay $200,000 for Baron's future college education, and Baron will be guaranteed a non-roster invitation to spring training in 2010 and 2011.
Instead of heading to Durham in a few months, Baron start his professional career three hours up the road in Pulaski, Virginia, where he will suit up for the rookie-level Pulaski Mariners of the Appalachian League.
This is dissapointing news for the Duke baseball program, which in May was one win away from landing its first berth in the NCAA bracket since 1961. Still, the mere fact that coach Sean McNally is attracting high school talent worth million-dollar signing bonuses speaks volumes about the progress the ex-Blue Devil player has made since joining on as head coach in 2005.
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