Georgia Tech will lose one of its top football recruits by the weekend, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Blessed Trinity outfielder Jake Skole was drafted No. 15 overall by the Texas Rangers in the major-league draft. He called Georgia Tech football coach Paul Johnson to say that he won’t be playing football, according to the Texas newspaper’s blog.
“I always felt like I’d end up being a baseball player,” Skole said. “I was about to [play football] and then all this draft stuff started popping up. I figured I might be able to have a future in this.”
The Star-Telegram also reported that a baseball official said Texas was close to agreeing to terms with Skole and expected him to be signed by the end of the week. The team’s pick at No. 22, catcher Kellin Deglan, has already reportedly agreed to a $1 million deal.
Earlier on Monday night, Skole told the AJC that he had “pretty much” decided on baseball after the early selection. “I was on the fence about it. But this pretty much rules it out.”
It was none other than Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan — now team president with the Texas Rangers — who called Skole on behalf of the team. “That was a pretty cool experience,” he said. ” I’m just pumped up about everything, and ready to go to work.”
Georgia Tech’s football coaches conceded last week that they would likely lose to Skole to baseball. He signed with Tech last February and planned to walk on the school’s baseball team to play with his older brother, All-ACC third baseman Matt Skole. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder was recruited in football to play safety.
Skole’s baseball fortunes seemed bleak when he missed most of the regular season with a high-ankle sprain. However, Skole returned to Blessed Trinity’s team in time for the playoffs to put on a show for the MLB scouts. In 14 playoff games, Skole hit .452 with six home runs and 21 RBIs. In the Class AA semifinals against Georgia’s No. 1 pitching prospect, Cook’s Kaleb Cowart (97 mph, drafted No. 18 by the LA Angels), Skole was retired on a called third strike to lead off the game. He responded with a pair of line-drive hits in his next two plate appearances against Cowart.
Earlier this week, Skole was asked what he would say to Tech football fans worried about the draft. “I’m going to have to do whatever I’m called to do,” he said. “I think it’s a life-changing decision that most people would understand. Georgia Tech is something special, and I will follow their football and baseball teams forever … they have been a big influence on who I am, with just hanging around the campus with my brother the past two years.”
In recent weeks, Skole had intense conversations with baseball scouts about his future. They wanted to know how committed Skole was to baseball before considering investing a high draft pick or a large signing bonus.
“Up until a few months ago, if you had asked Jake which sport he preferred, he’d say football,” said his father, Mike Skole. “But with the draft so close, it came to the point where we had to convince these guys that he was ready to put the football helmet down and get after it on the baseball field.”
Why did the Rangers pick Skole? Texas has filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with the team to be sold by the middle of the summer. The cash-strapped Rangers were looking to pick an elite prospect who was willing to agree to quick and fair terms — making the Skole the ideal match. The No. 15 pick was also an “unprotected,” awarded to the team after it failed to sign last year’s first-rounder. The Rangers are under intense pressure to sign Skole because they will not be given another freebie first-round pick for next year. The Rangers have until Aug. 16 to sign Skole.