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Mets select Dragons pitcher in sixth round

Jason Weintraub now must decide between signing a contract or playing for South Florida.

By FRANK PASTOR

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 6, 2001


TAMPA -- Jason Weintraub was born in Belleville, N.J., about a half-hour drive from New York City.

His father, Skip, is a die-hard Yankees fan. He still has family in the area.

It's a wonder, then, a family feud didn't result after the cross-town Mets drafted the Jefferson senior in the sixth round of Tuesday's draft.

"I've been a Yankee fan my whole life," Skip Weintraub said. "Now I may have to cross over."

As Weintraub and about 20 friends and family members crowded around a pair of computer screens at his father's sports card store, the Mets made the pitcher their eighth pick of the draft and the 192nd overall.

Weintraub, the first county high school player taken, broke into a smile then hugged his father, who has guided his career since he was 4.

A friend dug a Mets cap out of a car trunk, and Weintraub put it on as he cut a cake that read, "Congratulations, Jason."

Darren Liebman, Weintraub's personal trainer, capped the moment by blowing into a didgeridoo, a bassoon-like instrument he brought back from Australia.

"Of all the organizations, the Mets and Braves were the two organizations we were hoping Jason would be drafted by," Weintraub's father said. "They're very pitching-oriented, and that's great."

Weintraub, a 6-foot-3, 165-pound right-hander with a low-90s fastball, was ranked 49th among pitchers and 97th overall on Baseball America's list of top 100 prospects. Team One Baseball rated him the 72nd-best prospect. But as Weintraub waited, 106 pitchers were taken ahead of him.

"It was a big relief," Weintraub said. "About the fourth round, I was like, "Okay, where's my name?"'

The next question is if Weintraub, who has a scholarship offer from South Florida, will sign with the Mets.

Weintraub's father will oversee negotiations with help from Steve Canter, an agent who will serve in an advisory capacity.

If he signs, Weintraub will report to Kingston, Tenn., June 19 to play a summer schedule before leaving for instructional ball in September. If he attends college, Weintraub said he hopes to get stronger and add another 3 to 4 mph to his fastball before re-entering the draft after his junior season.

Weintraub's father said he expects him to make a decision in 7 to 10 days.

"Ultimately, the final decision will come from Jason Weintraub," his father said. "I won't push him."

Joe DelliCarri, the Mets' area supervisor for Northern and Central Florida, called during the fifth round to gauge Weintraub's interest in the club.

Skip Weintraub told DelliCarri he was more concerned his son get a fair shot with the organization than in what round he went.

"I might have scared them away," Skip Weintraub said at the time.

"We'll see."

Turns out, he had nothing to worry about. Not even his Yankees allegiance deterred them.

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