After MLB draft, Texas A&M’s Kenny Hill could be dual threat

Posted Wednesday, Jun. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
College or pro? A few Rangers offer their takes on whether players should go the college or pro route: Lance Berkman, who played at Rice: “Unless a guy is just off-the-charts talented like an Alex Rodriguez or Bryce Harper or Mike Trout, they should go to college in my opinion — at least position players. Pitchers are a little different because there is a greater risk of an injury. But the buffer of college between high school and pro ball is great. You get out on your own, but it’s still a little bit of a controlled environment. And it’s fun to play college baseball. Let me tell you, the low levels of the minor leagues stink. Also, if you’re good enough coming out of high school and if you go to college and you’re not good enough by the end there, you weren’t going to make it anyway.” Tanner Scheppers, who played at Fresno State: “I was fortunate where there was no pressure to go professional. My family wanted me to go to college, and we sat down and had a heart-to-heart talk about it. I still wasn’t developed fully, and it was a way to get some education out of the way. I’m a firm believer in the college route.” Robbie Ross, who passed up a scholarship to Kentucky: “I wanted to start my pro career really bad. I really wasn’t wanting to go to school because I didn’t like school. I couldn’t stand it. Not like the fact I didn’t do it, just the fact that I had to work really, really hard on it. I loved it for the fact it made me work hard, but it stressed me out.” Mitch Moreland, who played at Mississippi State: “Everybody who played college ball always asks, ‘What kind of number would you put on college?’ And I always say, ‘I don’t know if there is a number.’ It’d have to be life-changing money for me. College is mandatory for me. You’ve got to get out and grow up and learn how to do stuff on your own. It builds you as a person and adds character.” Local watch 10 players with local ties to watch in this year’s MLB draft:
Andrew MitchellLHPTCU50
Austin KubitzaRHPRice (Colleyville Heritage)122
Brian Ragira1BStanford (Arlington Martin)142
Cody DicksonLHPSam Houston State (Mansfield Summit)157
Cody ThomasOFColleyville Heritage165
Tony RizzottiRHPTulane (Arlington Martin)180
Tyler AlexanderLHPSouthlake Carroll216
Hunter LockwoodCWeatherford Junior College (Hurst L.D. Bell)233
Casey ShaneRHPBurleson Centennial239
Sheldon NeuseRHP/3BKeller Fossil Ridge303
* Baseball America ranking

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Kenny Hill moved to College Station on Saturday, started summer school classes Monday and will begin summer workouts with the Texas A&M football team at the end of the week.

Hill, a highly recruited dual-threat quarterback out of Southlake Carroll, is excited about taking his football career to the next level. But he also could entertain the idea of pursuing professional baseball, too.

Hill is coming off an impressive season playing third base for the Dragons, batting .481 with six doubles, three triples, four home runs and 26 RBIs. He could be taken at some point in this year’s MLB First-Year Player Draft, a three-day event that begins Thursday.

Hill, along with hundreds of players throughout the country, will be forced to make a decision whether to go to college or turn professional. Hill is in a more unique situation than others, though, as he is set to play football at a big-time program.

Cody Thomas, a quarterback from Colleyville Heritage who signed with Oklahoma, is in a position similar to Hill. Thomas, an outfielder who batted .482 with 15 home runs and 51 RBIs this season, is ranked as the 165th best prospect by Baseball America.

Hill, meanwhile, heard he could have been as high as a fourth-round selection but could fall because of his football commitment and the signing bonus it would take to make him leave A&M.

“Truthfully, I don’t know what that number would be,” Hill said. “It would have to be something where it’d be dumb for me not to take.”

Hill downplayed the notion that he could be swayed toward baseball with the possibility of being behind reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel on the depth chart for three years, assuming Manziel plays out his full eligibility.

“It’s something to consider, but I don’t think that would make or break a decision either way,” Hill said.

As of now, Hill expects to play football and baseball at A&M, but another scenario exists.

Assuming he’s drafted, Hill could explore the possibility of playing football at A&M and minor-league baseball during the summers. There has been a precedent set that would allow Hill to pursue both without affecting his NCAA eligibility. Former Texas running back Ricky Williams did it in the late 1990s.

“Baseball is absolutely something I want to do,” said Hill, whose dad, former pitcher Ken Hill, spent parts of 14 seasons in the big leagues.

“I love baseball and it’s something I want to still try to keep doing. [A&M] was cool with me playing both here, but I haven’t talked to them about playing in the summer in the minors. But, if that opportunity came about, I’d definitely talk with them and see what’s up.”

Some MLB teams might shy away from the idea of taking a two-sport athlete like Hill or Thomas, but the Rangers have shown a willingness to explore that avenue. Last year, they used their 14th- and 15th-round picks on players in similar situations.

In the 14th round, the Rangers took outfielder Kwinton Smith from Dillon (S.C.) High School. He had committed to play wide receiver at South Carolina. Then, in the 15th round, they took outfielder Jameis Winston from Hueytown (Ala.) High School. He was regarded as one of the top quarterback recruits in the country and headed to Florida State.

Smith and Winston opted not to sign with the Rangers, but that possibility had at least been broached.

“Each situation is unique — there’s no one way of handling it,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “If the guy’s a great athlete but almost definitely going to school to play football, that’s one thing. If our scouts feel he has a true passion for baseball and either wants to pursue both, or is open to being swayed to focus on baseball only, that’s a different story.

“Two-sport guys have different leverage, so to take them up high, we’d have to have a pretty good sense that they want to sign and know what it would take. We love taking chances on makeup and athleticism, but no one likes wasting a pick on someone who won’t sign.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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