Curiosity made Nick Adenhart keep track of the amateur baseball draft in June. Why else would a high school pitcher about to undergo ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow have any interest in it?
Why else would Adenhart, offered a full scholarship by the University of North Carolina, care about the selection process? Because he's a smart kid.
The Anaheim Angels chose Adenhart, once rated the No. 1 high school prospect in the country by Baseball America, in the 14th round and signed him last week for $710,000.
The surgery was a success. And once he's healthy, Adenhart will have a chance to be the same as a professional.
The Angels gave Adenhart, who graduated this spring from Washington County's Williamsport High, second-round money because he would have gone in the first if not for the injury. They regarded him as a steal.
But it was more than the cash that swayed Adenhart, who seemed ready to spend three years in Chapel Hill before reentering the draft. The Angels arranged for him to attend Arizona State University, a short distance from the facility where he'll undergo physical therapy on his arm. He's also close to the organization's training complex in Mesa, where he'll probably be assigned next summer to the Angels' rookie-level team. He's expected to begin pitching again by July 2005.
And Adenhart will be in good hands with Dr. Lewis Yocum serving as Anaheim's team orthopedist.
"The biggest deciding factor was they had a very creative plan for what he would do this year while he was rehabbing, and how to occupy his time the 20 hours a day he wasn't rehabbing," said Adenhart's stepfather, Duane Gigeous. "They're allowing Nick to experience both worlds, to be a full-time college student for at least the next year, and to be around the club and their spring training."
Adenhart left a May 11 game at South Hagerstown because of pain in the elbow. Dr. James Andrews performed the surgery in Birmingham, Ala., after Adenhart graduated.
Scouts flocked to all of his games, and Adenhart was projected as a Top 10 pick after going 5-1 with a 0.91 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings this year.
"Obviously the Angels wouldn't have signed him if the surgery hadn't gone off without a hitch," Gigeous said.
Adenhart took his physical after the Angels flew him to Anaheim, signed his contract and attended a game last week. "They treated him like a first-round pick," Gigeous said, "which was very appreciated."
"The Angels are professionals and they do this every day," Adenhart said. "They have the best people in the country working with them. All of their rehabs have been very successful. I have a lot of confidence in the organization."