In the end, the money proved to be too good to turn down as Whitefish Bay All-State baseball star and NOW Newspapers co-Player of the Year Kevin James recently signed a seven-year contract with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The ninth-round pick in the June draft received a $625,000 signing bonus.
"I really don't know what to do with it all, I'll probably put most of it away," he said in a phone call Monday night from the Rays' Class A minor league affiliate in Port Charlotte, Florida, where he is sharing apartment space with two other rookies.
His signing is a positive turn of events for the Rays, who recently announced that they were unable to come to terms with their top two draft picks. James is a 6-4, 190-pound left-handed pitcher.
James made contact with Tampa Bay officials on Aug. 12 and told them he would sign. He was on a plane to Florida the next day. Rumors prior to his signing indicated that ninth-round bonus money could be anywhere from $350,000 to $500,000.
With the turn of events, that meant James turned down a Division I collegiate scholarship offer from Boston College.
"I talked with the coach (at BC) and told him that it was a really hard decision," James said, "but that I felt it was the right one for me at this point in my life."
James led Bay to a 27-11 record this year and a berth in the WIAA sectional finals. His stock rose appreciably in winter camps, as the speed of his fastball continued to increase. At a couple of points this summer it was clocked at 95 miles an hour, a highly prized commodity for Major League ballclubs.
"They (the Rays) really liked the way I finished the season and said I looked ready to go," James said.
James went 6-3 this season with four saves and a 0.77 ERA. He struck out 106 and walked only 29 in just over 50 innings of work. He also hit .448 with 34 runs scored, six home runs and 32 RBI and was an amazing 24 of 24 in stolen bases.
He was named a Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association first-team all-state selection at a utility position and was also named the Louisville Slugger State Player of the Year.
James said he will stay down in Port Charlotte working out with the Stone Crabs but likely won't see any action as there are just a few weeks left in that teams' season.
'I'll probably throw a few bullpen sessions and then spend the winter back home in Bay working out at the high school," he said. James noted that the Rays' didn't tell him where he would be assigned next spring.
He had a chance to talk to Bay coach Jay Wojcinski Sunday night and said his old mentor was "ecstatic" at the decision.
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