It took 69 days and what seemed like hundreds of phone calls for it to become official.
But Monday night, just after 9 p.m., former Free State High baseball star Cody Kukuk officially became a member of the Boston Red Sox.
Kukuk, a left-handed pitcher who signed with Kansas University earlier this year, chose to bypass college and sign with the Red Sox, a decision that netted him an $800,000 signing bonus and the security of knowing that the Sox would pick up the tab for his studies, should he ever elect to go back to school.
For now, his focus is entirely on baseball and getting his head around what just went down.
“It all happened so fast,” said Kukuk, about an hour after making it official. “I haven’t been able to sit down and drink it all in because I’ve been on the phone constantly. But it’s definitely an honor and it’s been my dream since I was a little kid. I’m just honored I can live it out.”
Drafted in the seventh round, Kukuk played summer ball with a team in Texas and spent a good portion of the summer counting down to Aug. 15. That was the deadline for Major League Baseball clubs to sign their draft picks and, at the time of Kukuk’s decision, the Red Sox still were attempting to sign their top four picks.
Negotiations between Boston and the Kukuk family began on Aug. 8. After a couple of feeling-out offers from both sides, Kukuk saw the big number come into focus Monday night. From there, the rest was easy.
“When it got to that, it was hard to turn down the opportunity plus the money,” he said.
KU baseball coach Ritch Price said he fully understood why Kukuk made the decision, even if he was holding out hope until the final hour.
“We wish him all the best as he chases his dream of pitching in the big leagues,” Price said. “He’s a great young man. We will be his biggest fans.”
Kukuk shared similar thoughts about Price’s program.
“KU’s been great to me,” Kukuk said. “They’ve been patient with me and I know it’s hard for them. It’s unfair to colleges, but it’s part of the game, I guess. I’d just like to thank them for just sticking with me.”
In the hours that followed his selection in the June 7 draft, Kukuk’s father, Rod, raced out to get his son a brand new Boston hat. After a summer’s worth of breaking it in, Kukuk said Monday it finally felt as if the hat fit.
“Oh yeah, it looks good,” he said. “And it definitely feels like I’m part of it now.”