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Adenhart signs pact with Angels

July 28, 2004|by MARK KELLER

keller@herald-mail.com

Nick Adenhart has been caught up in several whirlwinds in the last 18 months.

From being tabbed baseball's next big thing to undergoing major elbow surgery, the Williamsport High School graduate has been forced to deal with pressures and emotions many 17-year-olds haven't even imagined.

The Adenhart whirlwind kicked up again last weekend, but this time the storm appears to have settled in Mesa, Ariz.

Adenhart signed a contract Monday with the Anaheim Angels, who selected him in the 14th round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft June 7.

The deal includes a $710,000 signing bonus, funding for four years of college and rehabilitation for an arm injury that kept him from pitching at the end of his final high school season and dropped him out of the first round of the baseball draft.

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"The deal we were able to come up with was unprecedented, but it's less than he would have gotten if he were healthy," Angels scouting director Eddie Bane said. "He showed a lot of trust in the Angels to rehab his injury and the Angels showed a lot of trust in someone who just went through 'Tommy John' surgery."

The contract trumps Adenhart's previous plans, which were to attend the University of North Carolina in the fall while rehabilitating his elbow.

"I was planning on going to Carolina until I came to California on Sunday," Adenhart told mlb.com. "It wasn't about the money."

Adenhart agreed to the deal Friday, flew to California on Sunday, signed the contract Monday and moved to Mesa - where the Angels' spring training facilities are located - to continue rehab on Tuesday, according to his stepfather, Duane Gigeous.

"He had to say a lot of goodbyes and do some fast packing," Gigeous said.

The signing is the culmination of nearly three months of drama involving Adenhart, who began the prep baseball season as one of the top pitching prospects in the country.

Adenhart was projected as a top-10 pick in the Major League Baseball's amateur draft in June, possibly going as high as second overall.

That all changed May 11 when Adenhart felt a pop in his right arm while pitching in a game against South Hagerstown. Within days, he was flying to Birmingham, Ala., to be checked out by Dr. James Andrews, one of the pioneers of the "Tommy John" elbow surgery that salvaged the careers of many major leaguers.

Andrews confirmed that Adenhart tore his elbow ligament and needed surgery, which Andrews performed on June 17.

Adenhart's draft stock plummeted following the injury, but the Angels still thought enough of the 6-foot-4, 190-pound right-hander to select him in the 14th round on June 7.

"Honestly, we should have taken him higher," Bane said. "For us to get him in the 14th round ... there's not a lot of Nick Adenharts in the 14th round."

Even though he was selected, Adenhart gave no indication that he would sign with Anaheim. He had turned his focus from professional baseball to college, specifically North Carolina, and an apparent reprieve from the whirlwind.

"I had a plan with plenty of options open," Adenhart said following his injury. "Now I'll go ... to North Carolina and go after the dream of pitching in the Major Leagues again."

With one trip to California, the storm started back in motion, if only for a weekend.

"The number of changes Nick's had to go through from May 11 to now, from the highs to the lows and back again ... it's not as much a whirlwind as a tremendous amount to put on a 17-year-old kid," Gigeous said. "He grew up a lot in the last three months."

Anaheim won the 2002 World Series, defeating the San Francisco Giants in seven games.

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