Ritch Price figured pitcher Shawn Blackwell was signed, sealed and all but delivered to Kansas University.
Then the Texas Rangers swooped in last week and made Blackwell an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“He was registered, went through orientation, the whole thing,” said KU baseball coach Price. “We’re absolutely shocked.”
Blackwell, a right-hander from League City, Texas, was taken in the 24th round of the June free-agent draft by the Rangers and rejected the club’s first offer to turn pro.
More than two months later, however, Texas upped the ante, and he signed Wednesday. Price said the Rangers gave Blackwell $300,000 after making an initial offer of just $2,500.
“We didn’t expect that kind of money,” Price said. “But did you see the signing bonuses (major-league teams) were handing out before the deadline? Absolutely shocking.”
While hurling for Clear Creek High in League City last spring, Blackwell compiled a 7-4 record with a 2.28 earned-run average. He struck out 90 in 64 innings.
Price projected Blackwell as the Jayhawks’ No. 4 starter at the beginning of the season with an opportunity, if he impressed early, to move into the three-man weekend rotation during Big 12 Conference play.
“Then when he was a sophomore,” Price said, “we saw him as an impact guy for us.”
In addition to Blackwell’s six-figure contract, the Rangers agreed to pay his college tuition.
“For me to skip going to college and missing out on that experience, it had to be a good offer,” Blackwell told the Galveston Daily News. “It had to be worth missing that stuff, and the offer definitely was.”
Price revealed that another KU mound signee, right-hander Tanner Poppe of Girard, received an 11th-hour offer from the Royals after being Kansas City’s 37th-round pick in the June draft.
“Thankfully for us, Poppe turned them down,” Price said. “He moved into the dorm on Saturday.”
Price has opted to split Blackwell’s scholarship money between outfielder Brian Heere and pitcher Brett Bochy.
“At this date, we can’t replace Blackwell,” the KU coach said, “so we rewarded two players coming back.”
Heere, a senior from Lawrence High, was the Jayhawks’ second-leading hitter last spring with a .364 average. He was the team leader in on-base percentage at a glossy .459.
Bochy, a junior right-handed pitcher and son of San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, posted a 5-0 record last spring in 30 mound appearances, all in relief.
In addition to Poppe, Price has three more recruits coming in — shortstop Brandon Macias, infielder Kevin Kuntz and catcher Alex DeLeon.