The Deadline Was in the Details

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As any Rice baseball fan is well aware, we are in the final hours of the countdown to the deadline for major league teams to sign those players they selected in the June Draft, or lose their rights to those players. 


While any deadline generates a requisite amount of nail-biting and anxious moments, the potential impact that any late signees would have on Rice's heralded recruiting class will have Owls closely watching their clocks as well as their various outlets for information with extended vigor.


But at least there is a clearly defined moment when the status of recruits is confirmed.  


In a previous life, when I sat on the other side of these matters as a baseball PR person, the end of negotiating rights with a player was tied not to the passing of time on a clock, but to the moment a player attended his first class of the fall semester. 


It was always a bizarre scenario, where the "threat" of going to class was used as potential leverage against a team in the hopes of some final burst of generosity that would bridge the gap and allow Joe Phenom to suddenly lose his previously professed interest in a college education, collect his healthy bonus and strike out for life in the bushes. 


I checked in with a few folks who were in scouting departments back in the day, to ask them for a few of their favorite memories of this floating deadline era.


In one instance, a first-round pick embattled with his club in stalled negotiations, went out of his way to appear ready to attend school, even though the club had already confirmed that he had missed the registration deadline and had no classes to attend.   Even with that knowledge, his dedication to the bluff was so compelling that the club in question began to double-check their sources. In the end, the club chose to believe their information, and as the days began to drag on past the start of school, his true academic status became impossible to deny and the two sides came to their agreement.


Another first rounder who was signed to a major southern university proved to be eagerly anticipating the social scene that awaited him.  He quickly embraced the lifestyle after arriving early on campus, complete with a girlfriend. The club decided that his motivation and makeup were perhaps more in question than they realized, but that did not stop the player from cultivating a reporter for the student paper, who made daily calls to the MLB club to update them to the fact that he had not yet attended his first class.  The club responded with the advice that perhaps he should not fall too much further behind in his classes and put his academic standing in peril, since there was no longer an offer from the club to accept.   


Come 12:01 am on Tuesday, the final list of freshmen recruits for the Owls and all other college programs will be finalized, with nary a single class attendance sheet required to make that happen.   


That is a very, very good thing.


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