Nick Lodolo bet on himself and won.
He faced a decision most baseball players only hypothesize about -- turning pro out of high school or going to college -- three years ago.
The Pittsburgh Pirates used the 41st overall pick and dangled $1.75 million at him. That’s tough for a lot of players to turn down given the injury risk, coupled with the possibility that one’s stock could diminish with an unproductive college career.
On the flip side, going to college gives a teenager an opportunity to develop more on the field and experience college life off it, rather than endure lengthy bus rides in the minor leagues.
For Lodolo, the gamble of going to TCU has more than paid off.
He became the seventh overall pick by the Cincinnati Reds earlier this month, and signed a $5.4324 million deal on Tuesday, according to MLB.com. That’s more than $3.6 million than he would’ve gotten three years ago. Or, simply put, he essentially earned more than $1.2 million each year in college.
As Lodolo said the night he was drafted, “When you are 17 and you make that decision to turn down $1.75 million, that’s a gamble on yourself that not too many kids would take. I believed in myself. I knew TCU was the place for me. The coaches here are unbelievable. They made me so much better on and off the field and as a person too.
“I couldn’t be more excited right now, especially getting to watch it live for the first time. Being able to watch that with friends, family and my team was awesome.”
Lodolo became the highest baseball player taken in TCU history.
Lodolo came to TCU as the highest unsigned pick from the 2016 MLB Draft. As stated, the Pirates selected him with the 41st overall pick in the supplemental first round out of Damien High School in La Verne, California, but he opted for college.
The 6-foot-6, 202 pound Lodolo is coming off his best season at TCU in 2019. He had a 2.36 ERA in 16 starts, posting career bests in strikeouts (131), innings pitched (103) and opponents’ batting average (.203). He had double-digit strikeouts in six of his 16 starts this season.
“We are so excited for Nick and his family for this tremendous opportunity with a great organization like the Cincinnati Reds,” TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said in a statement the night of the draft. “Nick has more than earned this. He’s done it the right way. It’s a great statement for him, his character and work ethic as well as the developmental process in our baseball program.”
For his TCU career, Lodolo pitched in 49 games, including 46 starts, with a 3.55 ERA for the Frogs. He struck out 296 batters in 258 2/3 innings pitched.