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Dorton's summer gets complicated

Former L-E standout must choose Holy City or Queen City after MLB draft

Posted: June 9, 2011 11:38 a.m.
Updated: June 10, 2011 5:00 a.m.

When he signed a national letter-of-intent to play baseball at the College of Charleston earlier this spring, Will Dorton talked about a last-ditch effort by coaches from the University of South Carolina to try and get him to change his mind and sign with the Gamecocks.

Well, guess what? Now, another team will try and pry the 2011 Lugoff-Elgin graduate away from Monte Lee’s Cougars. This time, however, Dorton’s newest suitor will use both cash and a scholarship to try and woo him.

When the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Dorton was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 15th round of Tuesday’s second day of the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft, it put a new and different obstacle in the right-handed pitchers’ path to the Holy City.

According to several sources, a player drafted in or near the 15th round is, oftentimes, offered a five-figure signing bonus. While Dorton had not started negotiations with the Reds as of Wednesday, he said a clause is put into the offer by which the franchise agrees to pay for his college tuition.

Some eight hours after returning home at 2 a.m. Wednesday following Tuesday’s night’s 30-24 Post 17 American Legion win over Dalzell-Shaw, Dorton said he had no trouble getting to sleep just hours after having been drafted by the Reds. And as far as starting negotiations are concerned, Dorton was not ready start thinking about making a decision as to his immediate future.

"It’s still a little early on for me to have a straight-forward answer to that question but, of course, I’m going to listen and see what they have to offer," Dorton said. "My first option is, obviously, to go to school."

Dorton, who did not make the Region 4-4A all-conference baseball team this past season, had a 3-3 record with one save for head coach Randy Stokes’ Demons. A selection for next weekend’s North-South All-Star games in Conway, Dorton finished his L-E career with a 9-4 record with a 3.35 earned run average. With a fastball in the 90s, he struck out 106 batters in 89.6 innings of work.

The third party in this process is Lee, who completed his third season at the baseball helm and the College of Charleston. A 1995 L-E graduate, who went on to play at the College of Charleston before being taken in the 39th round of the 1999 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, Lee was an assistant coach for six seasons at South Carolina before taking the head coaching post at his alma mater.

Lee said he will give Dorton several days to take in the experience of being drafted. Once things start to settle down a bit, Lee said he will sit down with Dorton and his parents and give them the lay of the land. Having coached and/or recruited some 100 or so draft choices, this is hardly uncharted waters for Lee.

"I let them calm down a little bit and then, come in and tell them, ‘Look, here’s what you’re looking at based on the draft,’" Lee said, while listening to Wednesday’s third round of the MLB Draft from his office in Charleston. "Obviously, it’s an exciting time for Will and his family. It’s an honor to get drafted where he got drafted.

"The biggest thing that we try to do is to make sure that they know the facts. Obviously, the 15th round in the draft is not a high draft pick; they don’t truly consider you a prospect in the 15th round. That means that they obviously like you, but the investment that they make in you is not a great one.

"The big thing we do with a player who gets drafted, but not really high, is we try to make sure they understand that going to college and getting three years of experience in college is a much better opportunity for them. After you get three years of school under your belt, you’re generally going to be bigger, stronger, more experienced and you’re going to get drafted a lot higher."

All Lee needs to do to illustrate his point to Dorton is let him look at the top three selections in this year’s draft, all of whom are third-year college pitchers who improved themselves and their stock by playing college ball.

While not saying which option he would end up choosing, Dorton seems to be leaning toward heading to Charleston come August. That is not to say that his mind might not be changed by the Reds’ organization when those negotiations begin.

"It will be tough to tell one of them ‘no,’" said Dorton, "but you have to think about what’s best for you and which of them is going to make you the better player; going to college for three years, sharpening all your tools and then, trying to go in the top five rounds … maybe. It’s going to be difficult to turn down either one.

"We have a ballpark figure that we’d like for (Cincinnati) to get around. One big thing is that, in the contract, they would agree to pay for the college. That is a new program which MLB offers and it’s a good program. Hopefully, we can get that thrown in there then, if they get around the figure, who knows."

Lee will use the development, both as a player and a person, which the college experience offers when he meets with Dorton and his family.

"That is the biggest thing that we’re trying to get him to understand and, I think he does," Lee said. "If education is important to him and his family, then I definitely think he should come to school. That’s a family decision, but I get the sense that he’s probably leaning toward coming to school. But, you never know.

"I don’t know if the Cincinnati Reds have even had the chance to speak with Will, yet, and talk about what they’re thinking. What we’re trying to make them understand is that, out of high school, quite frankly, and any agent in baseball will tell you this, is that if they’re you’re not going to get life-changing money, go to college.

"The big thing is that he has to decide how much money it’s going to take for (the Reds) to buy out his college."

While not having posted eye-popping numbers this past spring for the Demons, which played in a top-heavy baseball conference, Dorton had the opportunity to showcase his talent in front of a bevy of Major League scouts. Facing off against Spring Valley and its ace Taylor Guerreri, who went to Tampa Bay with the 24th overall pick, Dorton threw into a battery of radar guns that March evening in Columbia.

As the season progressed, Dorton started hearing from several teams with the Chicago White Sox and the Texas Rangers being the most interested. Throughout the evaluation process during the season, the Reds were not involved. That all changed at the tail end of the season.

"Actually, the Reds were the only team that didn’t talk to me throughout the entire process. They came on to me real late," Dorton said. "I guess they liked me enough to use an early pick on me."

As interest from MLB teams grew, the Dorton’s received a visit from a member of the MLB Scouting Bureau --- several weeks before the draft --- too get a feel for what it would take for a team, monetarily, to sign Dorton. The information which Dorton provided to the official was relayed to all 30 MLB teams.

The Reds’ interest in Dorton gained more steam last week when the ballclub invited him to come to Cincinnati and work out for team officials at the Great American Ballpark in the Queen City. The last-minute request was respectfully declined by Dorton, who was scheduled to make his first American Legion start of the season one day after the workout.

"It was on short notice," Dorton said of a trip in which, due to NCAA regulations, he would have had to pay for himself. "They called me one night and said ‘We need you to come to Cincinnati.’ I tried my best to get there, but I was scheduled to make a (Post 17) start the next day. I talked to the Reds’ guy after that and he said that he appreciated that I was committed to my team. That turned out to be a positive for me."

Less than a week later, the Reds came calling on Dorton again, this time to inform them that they had taken him with the 475th pick of the draft. The problem was, Dorton did not answer his cell phone. It was not until a few minutes later, as he was preparing to go to Post 17’s Tuesday game, that he answered a call from a number he recognized.

"Actually, I missed the call from the Cincinnati Reds’ guy," Dorton said. "I got a call from my college coach, Monte Lee. He called to tell me congratulations. I had no clue before talking to him. He was surprised (the news) came from him; I don’t think he knew that he would be the first person to tell me. Then, I saw where I missed a call and I called the Reds back.

"I had no clue I was going to get a call the second day of the draft. You just think that it will never happen to you. Then, to get a call like that and find out that you were taken in the top 20 rounds … it’s something that a lot of kids dream about, including myself. It was an awesome feeling."

Lee, who had heard from various scouts that Dorton was a candidate to be drafted, said he did not know it would be in the first half of the 50-round process. The Cougars coach’s first conversation with Dorton to congratulate his signee as to his selection was not so much to sell the merits of his program as much as he wanted to give Dorton a feel as to what was to come over the following weeks.

"I just told him what I thought he should do. Obviously, it’s his decision," Lee said. "I’ll stay in touch with him, week-by-week, and see what he’s thinking and if anything changes. Right now, right when (getting drafted) happens, I’ll give him a few days. When it happens, there is such a big excitement of getting drafted and people kind of go crazy for a couple days.

"I let them calm down a little bit and then, come in and tell them, ‘Look, here’s what you’re looking at based on the draft.’ I’ve coached, probably, a hundred kids now who have been drafted, so I know what the situation is."

As news of his selection spread, Dorton’s cell phone "blew up." What was a full battery on his cell phone died in some 30 minutes as he received calls and texts congratulating him. One call which he did take was from Camden’s Michael Kohn. Three years ago, Kohn was taken out of the College of Charleston by the Angels in the 13th round of the draft. He made his Major League debut last summer and is now pitching for the organization’s AAA franchise in Salt Lake City.

Dorton said Kohn told him that he was there for his young friend for advice or for any other questions he had.

"I talked to Michael right after I got drafted; that was real helpful," Dorton said. "He congratulated me and said that I would remember this day for the rest of my life. He told me that if I needed anything to let him know.

"He didn’t get involved in the decision-making process. He just called to congratulate me and to let me know that he was proud of me."

It was Lee who put where Dorton was taken into perspective. Obviously, he hopes his fellow L-E alum will join the Cougars.

"If you’re going to sign a pro contract after high school, you want to be considered a prospect. It’s that simple," he said. "If you’re not drafted within the first seven to eight rounds of the draft, you’re not considered a prospect.

"It’s like this, and I tell kids with scholarships this; when you’re dealing with signability and all that, the bigger investment they make in you, the more they want you and the longer they will give you to develop."

For his part, Dorton said he will keep his eyes and ears open as he hears from both Lee and the Reds over the course of the summer. From what he heard Tuesday, he thought both sides were going to come after him hard with their best sales pitch.

"It’s definitely going to be a grind," he said. "I was telling one of my friends that there is all the rush and all the excitement of day one, then, you realize all that is going to be coming your way. It’s a grind, but there are a lot of guys who you can talk to. I know Michael Kohn and there are a lot of advisors out there who you can talk to.

"It’s going to be tough, but I’m going to try and enjoy it and soak up as much of it as I can so that when it comes time to make a decision, I’ll make the right one."

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