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Cenate reaches agreement with Orioles

July 02, 1999|By MARK KELLER

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson High School baseball coach John Lowery knew he had something special when he saw Josh Cenate pitch as a freshman.

"I remember making the comment to his father that he was going to pitch for us that year," Lowery said. "He won five games as a freshman."

Cenate went on to win many more games for the Cougars - 30 more, to be exact. Now, the Baltimore Orioles are hoping the recent graduate can bring that same kind of magic to their organization.

The Orioles, who drafted Cenate with the 34th pick in this year's amateur draft, came to an agreement with the West Virginia Player of the Year on a contract late Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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The 34th selection in the 1998 amateur draft received a signing bonus of $860,000, while the 33rd selection got a $1 million bonus. Cenate said when he was drafted that he was seeking a bonus in that range.

Cenate will undergo a physical examination Tuesday in Baltimore. If he passes, he will likely sign the contract that day.

"If I don't pass, then nothing goes. But I don't see any reason why I wouldn't pass," Cenate said.

Cenate will then leave for Sarasota, Fla., where he will join the Orioles' rookie team in the Gulf Coast League.

"What's neat about it is that of you had asked Josh as a freshman what he wanted to do, he would have said play in the major leagues. It's something he has wanted to do and worked very hard to put himself in position to do," Lowery said.

It is a dream come true for Cenate, sort of.

"It's the start of a dream, anyway," Cenate said. "I'll tell you, the dream is making it to the bigs. When I was drafted, I pretty much knew I would sign. The dream won't come true until I reach the majors."

Cenate was the fifth player selected by the Orioles in the draft.

In his high school career, Cenate rewrote the record book at Jefferson, the most successful baseball program in the state.

He shattered the school record for wins, finishing with 35. He went 14-1 this season, his only loss coming in the season opener. He struck out 198 batters in 96 innings this season and allowed only nine earned runs.

Cenate got the job done when his team needed it most. He struck out a career-best and state tournament-record 19 in Jefferson's semifinal round win over St. Albans.

Jefferson won its seventh state title this year, its fifth in the 1990s.

"It's an exciting day for anyone who's been around Josh or the program, who's seen him develop and get to where he is today," Lowery said.

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