Many high school baseball players dream of being drafted and receiving a large bonus when they sign.
Gilbert’s Chris Owings is living that dream.
The 41st pick in June’s Major League Baseball draft will fly to Phoenix on Monday to sign a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks that will include a $950,000 bonus.
“It’s starting to set in a little bit,” Owings said. “It’ll hit me when I get out there.”
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Owings, the first player from a S.C. high school or college to be selected, will not attend USC, where he had signed to play. Instead he will report Wednesday to the Missoula (Mont.) Osprey, the Diamondbacks’ affiliate in the rookie-level Pioneer League, which plays through Sept. 11. He expects to be assigned to a fall instructional league in Arizona after Missoula’s season ends.
“I’m relieved that I now know what I’m doing. I’ve been waiting to figure out where I was going,” Owings said. “I’m excited to be starting my professional career.”
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound middle infielder led Gilbert High to Class 2A state championships in 2006 and ’08. He batted .400 with five homers, 20 RBIs and 22 stolen bases his senior season.
He spent this summer lifting weights, hitting and throwing instead of playing on a high school showcase team as he and his advisers put together a deal with Arizona.
“This is what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure it was going to work out,” he said. “We kept saying, ‘They picked me for a reason.’ ”
The process took two months because he was holding out for more money. His bonus ended up being more than the $820,000 slotted by MLB for the 41st pick.
MLB officials are trying to hold the line on the amount of signing bonuses this year and are putting pressure on teams not to go too far above the recommended figures.
Owings is the first of USC’s high school signees who were drafted early to work out a pro deal. Wil Myers, a catcher/third baseman from High Point, N.C., was picked in the third round by the Kansas City Royals with the 91st selection. Myers, who was projected to go in the first round, is expected to sign for well above his projected slot money.
Right-handed pitcher Brooks Hall, who played at Anderson’s T.L. Hanna High, was chosen in the fourth round by the Milwaukee Brewers. Hall’s Columbia-based adviser, Lee Long, said Hall continues working toward a deal with the Brewers.
Both Myers and Hall could see their negotiations go down to the Aug. 17 deadline for drafted players to sign.
Reach White at (803) 771-8643.