Ex-Oxford pitcher Stephens drafted by Reds
by Joe Medley
jmedley@annistonstar.com
Jun 07, 2012 | 6960 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jackson Stephens joined ex-Oxford teammate Zach Lovvorn among Major League Baseball draftees Wednesday, but Stephens has yet to choose whether he’ll join Lovvorn in professional baseball immediately.

The pitcher and Alabama signee will take his time and weigh options.

“I’m really just discussing that with my family,” Stephens said Wednesday night. “I’ve got a great scholarship to Alabama, and there’s nothing wrong with going to that.

“But, if I want to pursue my opportunity to go play pro baseball, then it’s right there.”

Stephens, a senior right-handed pitcher and major contributor to Oxford’s run to this season’s Class 6A title, was drafted in the 18th round by the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday.

Also Wednesday, ex-Oxford standout Saxon Butler, a big bat in Samford University’s run to an NCAA regional this season, went in the 33rd round to the New York Yankees.

This comes a day after the Kansas City Royals picked Lovvorn, another starting pitcher in Oxford’s rotation this past season, in the sixth round.

“It’s been a great two or three days for Oxford baseball,” Oxford coach Wes Brooks said.

The 40-round draft concluded Wednesday.

Not drafted were highly touted Oxford seniors Tucker Simpson, most valuable player in the 6A title series, and Mathew Goodson, like Simpson a four-year starter and major contributor on two Oxford teams that reached the 6A finals.

Simpson is a Florida signee and Goodson an Alabama signee. Major League teams weigh several factors in draft decisions, including a player’s asking price to forego college.

Also, new draft rules slot signing bonus money depending on the round. The amount drops after the third round then to a $100,000 maximum after the 10th round.

A player can drop on a team’s draft board, depending on how the draft develops and teams address position needs.

Big league teams scouted Simpson, Goodson, Stephens and Lovvorn heavily throughout Oxford’s recently completed season.

“The situation just hasn’t worked out right for them,” Brooks said. “Again, I think they are top-10-round guys, but the situation and maybe the organizations that were interested in them, the opportunity hasn’t presented itself.”

Things worked out well for Lovvorn, and the Samford signee said Tuesday that he will forego college and sign a minor-league contract today.

Butler just played his final season of college eligibility, which impacted his draft leverage. Big league teams knew an independent-league shot was his only other option, and the Yankees took their time drafting him.

“I actually woke up this morning to a phone call from them before today’s part of the draft ever started,” Butler said. “They said that I was moving up their boards, and they were going to take me at some point today.

“They ended up calling me back in the 17th round and said they were about to take me. They called me back in the 23rd round and said they were about to take me and, finally, I heard my name called in the 33rd round.”

Not that he’s complaining.

“I’m just glad it happened,” he said. “They just told me to come in and said I had good college bat and they liked me and was going to take me.”

For Stephens, the choice isn’t so clear.

Jay Stephens, Jackson’s father, said the family awaits the Reds’ offer.

“They haven’t contacted us to sit down and talk about anything like that,” he said. “Right now, we’re still just glad to be drafted and looking forward to hear what they have to say, but we don’t have any kind of details or definites yet to make any kind of decisions.”

He said the family has no specific demands.

“We really don’t have a number,” he said. “We’re really just sort of sitting and waiting to see what it us and then have a little family get-together, pray about it and see what kind of decision to make based on what it comes down to.”

Jay Stephens declined to specify what percentage of college costs is covered by Jackson’s Alabama scholarship but said percentage wasn’t the deciding factor on his college choice.

The family will weigh the percentage against the Reds’ offer.

“You have to definitely evaluate that,” Jay Stephens said. “No matter what the number is that the Reds throw out there, we have to decide upon (whether) the schooling is paid for.

“Major League Baseball, they’ll pay for your schooling as long as you’re going to school, so, in your decision, you have to look at that.”

Jackson Stephens also had options in football after quarterbacking Oxford to the state semifinals, the Yellow Jackets’ deepest-ever playoff run in 6A. The option to attend college on a football scholarship could be there, down the road, if baseball doesn’t work out.

It’s all part of the calculation, and Jackson Stephens has until the July 13 signing deadline to choose.

“We’re going to get to doing that,” Stephens said. “We’re just going to try and enjoy the day, for right now. It’s an exciting day and a dream that’s come true from when I was a little kid.”

Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.

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