If you’re not uber-agent Scott Boras or San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers, you’re not going to get Donavan Tate on the phone these days. Even though I share one of their last names (no relation), I’m neither guy, so attempts to reach the baseball/football phenom have been unsuccessful.
But I was able to reach somebody close to Donavan Tate. His father, Lars Tate, and I went to college together. Well, not exactly together. He was a star tailback for the Georgia Bulldogs and later played for the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Bucs. I was just a regular student living in a dorm who wrote an occasional story for The Red & Black student newspaper, at least one or two on Lars Tate.
So I’m pretty sure Lars was just being polite when he said, “Yeah, yeah, of course I remember you. Been a long time, hasn’t it? How ya doin’?”
Anyway, it is Lars’ son who is in the news these days. In case you haven’t heard, Donavan was the No. 3 overall pick in this past June’s baseball draft. That came after the Cartersville High graduate signed a scholarship to play football at North Carolina in February. To bring you up to date, Donavan showed up late to the Tar Heels’ preseason camp this past weekend, worked out with the team for three days, then came home to Cartersville this past Wednesday.
It would appear Donavan’s signing with the Padres is imminent. Baseball’s deadline to sign draft picks is Monday and something certainly compelled him to come back home. Otherwise, Donavan will return to UNC and won’t be eligible to be drafted again until after his junior year in college.
Lars Tate, for one, is enjoying all this.
“Everybody keeps talking that about that boy,” said Lars, who lives in Riverdale. “Everybody’s worried about what’s going to happen. He’s just relaxing and playing golf.”
Lars said he’s not intimately involved in negotiations. He did not marry Donavan’s mother, Tracy Sims, who lives in Cartersville, and doesn’t see Donavan every day. But he talks to his son regularly by phone and is kept up to date with all the goings-on.
“I told him from the beginning, he doesn’t need to play football,” Lars said. “I told him, ‘you need to swing that Louisville Slugger.’ The NFL is Not For Long, that’s what it stands for. My knees hurt right now.”
But Lars said his son is indeed serious about playing football. He said North Carolina recruited him and recruited him hard to play both sports in Chapel Hill. Donavan could play any skill position but was wearing No. 19 and working with the quarterbacks during his brief stay on the UNC campus.
“He loves football; he loves contact like his dad,” said Lars, who remains No. 2 behind Herschel Walker at UGA for career rushing touchdowns (36). “He’s big and he’s fast and he can play anywhere on the field. I just hate that he didn’t go to Georgia. But he didn’t want to go there and be Lars Tate’s son. He wanted to be his own man and I respect that. He’s a smart kid, too. He’s a good student and needs to get an education. But I guess he can do that either way.”
Lars said Boras is seeking a $6.5 million signing bonus from the Padres (down, he said, from an initial demand of $10 million). It’ll be interesting to see what happens, these being stingy economic times, the Padres being the Padres and Donavan having some strong negotiating options behind the mighty Boras.
“He wants to play football but I told him he could play baseball for life,” Lars Tate said. “He’ll do what’s right. Donavan’s a great young man, very intelligent, strong-minded. And I know where he gets it from.”