Monte Harrison traveled to New Jersey on Thursday, put on a black suit with subtle pinstripes and walked into MLB Network’s Studio 42 in Secaucus ready to take the first step toward a potential future as a professional athlete.
The wait inside Studio 42 was longer than expected.
The Milwaukee Brewers selected Harrison with the 50th overall pick Thursday in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft. Many mock drafts had pegged Harrison as a late first-round pick.
That didn’t happen. And now the real drama begins.
A standout centerfielder from Lee’s Summit West High School, Harrison, 18, has already signed with Nebraska to play baseball and football — he’s rated as a four-star wide receiver — so he’s no lock to pursue his MLB dreams. At least not yet.
Harrison has refused to discuss the looming decision publicly. In an interview with The Star early last week, Harrison said he hadn’t made up his mind about whether he will stick to his commitment to Nebraska or begin a professional baseball career, adding that his decision would depend on a variety of factors, including which team drafted him and what that team offered him in terms of a signing bonus.
But the possibility of being a high pick in the MLB Draft intrigued him.
“It feels good, but it’s a lot of pressure,” Harrison said last week of the possibility. “But I live up to pressure. I love living in that moment when all the eyes are on me. It brings out the best in me. It puts me in the right place.”
Scouts label Harrison a potential five-tool center fielder — meaning he can hit for average and power, he has speed and he can make a defensive play with his glove and his arm. But the path for high school players to major-league stardom is seldom a quick one.
The deadline for amateur draft picks to sign is July 18. If Harrison opts for Nebraska instead, he would have to wait three years before re-entering the MLB Draft pool. He would also be eligible for the NFL Draft in three years, which Lee’s Summit West football coach Royce Boehm believes is a distinct possibility should Harrison opt to attend Nebraska.
After dropping farther than expected in the MLB Draft on Thursday, the likelihood of that possibility may be growing.
“Heck yes he’s an NFL player,” Boehm said. “The upside of Monte is huge. Whatever Monte chooses to do, he’s going to succeed.”
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