Woodward Academy’s Delino DeShields will follow in the baseball footsteps of his famous father. But it was only after DeShields proved he could’ve taken another sports path, if he had wanted.
DeShields, the one-time college football prospect, and Cook pitcher Kaleb Cowart are candidates to be the first Georgia high schoolers selected in Monday’s major-league draft.
“I’ve heard rumors about where I might get drafted, but we’ll see what happens,” DeShields said. He said a “fair offer” with bonus money — and not where he is drafted — will be the determining factor on going pro or attending LSU on a baseball scholarship.
Baseball America’s mock draft has the Houston Astros picking DeShields at No. 19, while the Toronto Blue Jays (No. 11) and Los Angeles Dodgers (No. 28) are rumored to have first-round interest.
That’s pretty high for a guy who only four months ago was fiercely determined to pursue a football career.
Football has always held a special place in DeShields’ heart. It was a sport where he created his own success, far away from the baseball shadows of his father by the same name (he’s not a “junior” as they have different middle names), who played 13 seasons in the majors.
Last summer, the 5-foot-9, 190-pounder held college football offers from nearly a dozen schools, including Georgia Tech, Stanford, Ole Miss and Central Florida. Some schools liked him at tailback, while others recruited him at cornerback or wide receiver.
Before he reached a decision, some of the offers were pulled. “Football coaches told me that they were hearing good things about me from baseball people‚ and they were scared of losing me to baseball,” DeShields said.
After some soul-searching during the Christmas holidays, DeShields confirmed his passion for football and wanted to accept an offer from UConn. He would walk on the school’s baseball team.
“They [UConn] kind of put me on hold for a month,” DeShields said. “It got to be February, and I got tired of waiting. At that point, I just figured it would be easier for me to go to college on a baseball scholarship. I really wanted to play football, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”
His father was also a two-sport standout, signing a basketball scholarship with Villanova to play point guard. He opted for baseball after he was selected No. 12 overall in the 1987 draft by the Montreal Expos. The elder DeShields said he never pushed his son toward his baseball footsteps.
“As a father with raising my kids, I’ve always tried to help them find their own identity,” said the father, who manages the Cincinnati Reds’ minor-league team in Billings, Mont.
“Look what Delino did in football. That’s what I mean, that my kids are going to make their own way. And when it is all said and done, Delino is going to have his own identity.”
DeShields is the oldest of his father’s five children from two marriages. His sister, Diamond, led Norcross High School to the state basketball championship as a freshman last March and was named to Parade Magazine’s All-America team.
How do father and son compare as baseball players? “The biggest difference between us is that I was a ‘street kid,’ ” the elder DeShields said. “I grew up on the streets. Delino didn’t have that. But otherwise, I’ve taught him what I know about baseball.
“He’s a little better ballplayer than I was coming out of high school. He’s stronger‚ but I really don’t see many differences between us.”
While roaming center field for Woodward this spring, DeShields showcased his speed and arm strength. He was leadoff hitter for the College Park private school, leading the team in homers (9), RBIs (40) and stolen bases (29) while posting a .415 batting average.
“He is such a great athlete,” Woodward assistant Chris Reed said. “He can make things happen at the plate, on the bases, and in the field. He has the one intangible you can’t coach — speed.”
However fast DeShields might be, he hasn’t been able to outrun his father’s baseball shadows — just yet. He loves his dad, but said, “I really don’t like having the same name because people automatically think I’m only good because of that. Or they think I’m only getting looked at [by scouts] because I’m ‘Delino DeShields.’
“But what they don’t know is how hard I’ve worked to get where I am. The baseball scouts don’t care what your name is, only whether or not you can play the game. Next week, I guess we’ll find out what they really think.”