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Twins' No. 1 pick has a choice to make

Joe Mauer, a prep star from Minnesota, can choose between baseball and FSU football.

By BRIAN LANDMAN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 6, 2001


Florida State football coaches realized from Day 1 that standout quarterback Joe Mauer, the jewel of their consensus No. 1 recruiting class, could go No. 1 in the Major League Baseball draft.

So they weren't surprised Tuesday when that possibility became reality. The power-hitting catcher from Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, Minn., was taken first overall by the Twins.

"It's not a total shock," FSU offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden said. "We were able to be prepared and knew the risks going in when recruiting started."

The Seminoles courted and signed quarterbacks Adrian McPherson (Bradenton Southeast) and Matt Henshaw (Brentwood High in Tennessee) as well as Mauer, the nation's top-rated quarterback from the same school that produced quarterbacks Steve Walsh and Chris Weinke.

But the Seminoles are not giving up hope that Mauer will show up in Tallahassee this summer. Or that he'll stay there to play college football and then pro baseball in the summer, as former Tampa Catholic quarterback/outfielder Kenny Kelly tried to do for three years for the Miami Hurricanes and Rays.

Mauer would not be specific regarding his plans Tuesday, telling the Associated Press "right now, I just want to enjoy this." he said.

But he was quoted recently on ESPN.com as saying that baseball always has been his "first love" and the "higher I go in the draft, the more likely it will be that I will give it (football) up."

That's when he figured he'd go in the top five picks. Now, as the No. 1 selection, the money he will command, perhaps $6-million, probably would necessitate he focus solely on baseball. His adviser, Ron Shapiro, an agent who has represented Kirby Puckett and Cal Ripken, told Bloomberg News that Mauer's preference is to play baseball rather than football.

"Football definitely is still in the picture," said Mauer's father, Jake, perhaps in an attempt to strengthen his son's bargaining power. "We're going to have to weigh all the options. Right now, we're all just so excited the hometown team took him."

"Obviously, he still has a decision to make whether or not he wants to try to do both, but I don't want to speculate on that," Bowden said. "You have to let him go through the process."

Bobby Bowden did promise to hold a scholarship for Weinke, who signed in 1990, arrived in Tallahassee in August but left shortly before school began to pursue baseball. Bowden never imagined that Weinke would call him six years later and ask if that offer were still good. Jokingly, Jeff Bowden said Mauer's national letter of intent didn't go into effect until 2005.

If Mauer is out of the picture, FSU figures to need McPherson or Henshaw to emerge quickly. Chris Rix, who sat out his freshman season, looks to be the starter, and junior Anquan Boldin, who switched from quarterback to receiver as a freshman only to switch back in the spring, could be his backup.

CUBAN DRAFTED: Rolando Viera, a Cuban pitcher who was denied a request for free agency Monday, was drafted in the seventh round by Boston with the 213th pick.

Alan Gura, one of Viera's attorneys, told Judge James Whittemore in Tampa that entering Viera in the draft would force the pitcher to consider leaving the United States with no assurances of being allowed to return. The judge disagreed.

WRONG MOVE: Matt Harrington, a right-hander drafted by Colorado with the seventh pick last year, made a costly decision to become the only first-round pick who didn't sign last year.

Harrington, who turned down $5.3-million for seven years, according to ESPN.com, re-entered the draft this year. He was picked in the second round by San Diego with the 58th pick and won't receive nearly as lucrative an offer.

DIFFERENT VIEW: Most teams were impressed by John VanBenschoten's powerful swing. The Pirates liked his right arm even more.

VanBenschoten, who hit a Division I-leading 31 homers for Kent State as a first baseman and pitcher, was chosen by Pittsburgh with the eighth pick.

VanBenschoten hit .443 with 79 RBI and 22 stolen bases, but also went 2-2 with a Mid-America Conference-leading eight saves. Pittsburgh plans to use the 21-year-old VanBenschoten on the mound.

"He seemed to have a greater presence about him when he was on the mound," Pirates scouting director Mickey White said. "He just looks like a pitcher to me."

TOUCHING ALL THE BASES: Mauer joined Danny Goodwin (White Sox, 1971) and David Clyde (Rangers, 1973) as the only players to be chosen by their home state teams with the No. 1 pick. ... Colt Griffin, a right-hander from Marshall High School in Texas who went ninth overall to Kansas City, struck out 110 in 59 innings. He burst onto the scene when he threw a 100 mph pitch in front of scouts two months ago.

- Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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