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Baseball

What a difference one game makes

A bad outing in a state semifinal drops Jesuit's Mike Branham from among the top draft picks to the 39th round.

By SCOTT PURKS
Published June 9, 2004

TAMPA - If the amateur baseball draft had taken place three weeks ago, Mike Branham's life would be a lot different today.

Maybe $400,000 to $1-million different.

The reality, however, is the draft took place Monday and Tuesday, which came two weeks after Branham started a Class 3A semifinal at Legends Field for Jesuit and threw his first 10 pitches from 5 feet over the catcher's head, to 5 feet behind the hitters, to 5 feet in front of the plate.

He was taken out after those 10 pitches, which likely is a major reason he dropped from a projected second- to fifth-round pick to the 39th round, where Los Angeles took him Tuesday.

"After that happened at Legends Field, I had a feeling this may happen," Branham said, keeping a positive tone. "It is disappointing that after the senior year I had (11-1, 80 innings, 160 strikeouts, 0.88 ERA) that one bad outing at Legends changed everything.

"But I do understand that baseball is business. Now I guess I'll just have to move on."

Moving on almost assuredly means going to the University of Florida, with whom Branham signed a baseball scholarship months before the draft.

No doubt the Gators hope the 6-foot-3 right-hander brings his 93-mph fastball and dominating sharpness that preceded his wildness at Legends.

"Going into the last week of the season I think everyone thought he would have many more options than he does now," Jesuit coach John Crumbley said. "But he still has many other opportunities ahead of him. He's a fine young man and I'm sure things will work out for him."

Branham said he has had strong sessions throwing for a couple of major-league teams since Legends, and though no teams took a chance on him with a higher pick, he feels confident about what lies ahead.

"All those 10 pitches at Legends did was postpone my professional career by three years," Branham said. "I'll be back."

Players taken in the second to fifth round of the 2003 draft signed anywhere from $100,000 to close to $1-million.

[Last modified June 9, 2004, 01:00:39]


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