Decisions, decisions. Some gain and some lose.
Three All-Anne Arundel County pitchers made big decisions over the past couple of weeks, and as a result, a potentially potent pitching staff at UMBC has gone up in flames.
UMBC coach John Jancuska had oral commitments from Ken Pumphrey of Old Mill and Broadneck's Sean Ryan and had Chesapeake's Jason White interested. Pumphrey and Ryan, both hard-throwing right-handers, turned pro, and the lefty White has agreed to attend James Madison University.
Pumphrey, the highest-drafted player from the metro area as a fourth-round pick of the New York Mets, orally agreed to a bonus contract with the National League team last Thursday and signed Saturday evening.
Chosen on the 36th round by the Texas Rangers, the 6-foot-7 Ryan signed a bonus contract (estimated at $26,000) 10 days ago and was expected to make his pro debut this week for the Rangers' rookie team at Port Charlotte, Fla.
Pumphrey and Ryan were two of five Anne Arundel countians and 20 Marylanders selected in June's amateur free-agent draft.
White accepted Madison's baseball scholarship offer Monday, turning down UMBC, Towson State, UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Charlotte and the University of Maryland.
"I loved the school and campus at Madison, and they play in a very good conference [Colonial with Old Dominion, Richmond, UNC-Wilmington, East Carolina, William & Mary and George Mason]," White said.
"Getting away from home and distractions was important for me. And Madison is close enough for my parents to come see me pitch, and I got the impression that I will get to pitch as a freshman."
None of the final decisions is a slap at Jancuska and his outstanding Retriever program, but rather a compliment to the quality pitchers he can attract.
At the same time, the loss of three such promising pitchers is a big-time frustration for Jancuska and staff.
UMBC has been a quality program for quite some time, and its tradition would have been enhanced had the Anne Arundel trio ended up there.
But Jancuska has been through this ordeal before.
Pumphrey was certainly the most likely to turn down the $H Retrievers because of his draft status as a fourth-rounder.
At a going-away party Saturday night, the 6-foot-5 right-hander signed the biggest bonus contract ever awarded an Anne Arundel County player.
The Mets gave Pumphrey an estimated $85,000 bonus, plus $35,000 in education and incentives for a total package of about $120,000.
Only two other Anne Arundel countians have been drafted higher in the June process -- first baseman Jim Spencer of Andover High in 1965 and right-handed pitcher Joe Andrezjewski of Chesapeake in 1988. Spencer, who played 14 seasons in the majors, was the No. 1 pick of the California Angels, and Andrezjewski was a Milwaukee Brewers third-rounder.
Neither Spencer nor Andrezjewski received anything close to the bonus money that Pumphrey got.
Texas Rangers minor-league pitching instructor Tom House has advised Ryan to stop throwing the slider because his "elbow is too low," leaving the right-hander a three-pitch (fastball, curve and circle change) repertoire.
The other three county players drafted also have signed -- catcher Rick Spiegel (Atlanta Braves) of Northeast and Anne Arundel Community College; left-handed pitcher Zach Collins (Atlanta Braves) of Arundel High and Essex CC; and left-handed pitcher Keith Volkman (California Angels), Glen Burnie.
Around the horn
Arundel's All-County shortstop, Jeff Hedrick, leaves for the U.S. Olympic Festival at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Saturday through July 11.
Hedrick, who plays in the summer for Mayo Legion, is an infielder zTC on the East Region Team and is one of three Marylanders competing for a berth on the 18-and-under USA Junior National Team.
The other Marylanders trying out among four region teams for the right to move on to Tyler, Texas, for the final tryouts and ultimately for a chance to play in Toronto's Skydome vs. Team Canada are Putty Hill and Calvert Hall left-handed pitcher Andy Bair and Gunther's Little Orioles catcher Brandt Childs of Damascus.
Davidsonville's Kevin Gibbs, a graduate of St. John's High in the Washington area, is a starting outfielder and leadoff hitter for Team USA (college players). Gibbs, who hit .436 with 37 RBIs and 41 stolen bases as a freshman at Old Dominion, led off Team USA's first game with a homer against Nicaragua.
Old Mill shortstop/third baseman Ryan Wood, another All-County player, will attend Louisburg (N.C.) College, and North County's second-team All-County outfielder/pitcher, Bob Christopher, is headed to Anne Arundel Community College.
AACC coach Clayton Jacobson has landed the most underrated high school player in the area in Christopher, whose best years are ahead as a left-handed pitcher and hitter. Several pro scouts have been impressed with Christopher as a pitcher.