Cashing In: Pike, Whalen, Asher Sign Deals With MLB Clubs
Mon. June 18, 2012 at 11:44 p.m. | By Solange Reyner
TYLER PIKE signed a big contract with the Seattle Mariners on June 14th after being selected in the third round earlier this month in the MLB Amateur Draft. (Photo by MICHAEL WILSON | THE LEDGER )
By SOLANGE REYNER
LAKELAND | Tyler Pike was bass fishing in Crooked Lake Park this past Saturday, enjoying some down time with his close friends before he finished packing for a steamy summer in Arizona.
He didn't catch anything because it was too windy. Turns out, it wasn't a good day for fishing.
Didn't matter. It was one of Pike's last days before he would start his new job and he just wanted to enjoy it with the people closest to him.
Pike, 18, will start work Wednesday for the Arizona Mariners, the Arizona Rookie League affiliate of Seattle.
And unlike his fishing expedition, he's hoping he's the professional baseball team's big catch of this year's Major League Baseball draft. It's looking like the Mariners' feelings are mutual. They've given him star treatment so far. Pike, a lefty pitcher, was flown with his family last week to Seattle, where he watched four pro games from a suite. He toured the clubhouse and facilities and got to shake hands with some of the current major leaguers.
Then, the Mariners made the Winter Haven grad an offer he couldn't refuse: Pike, who was picked in the third round (126th overall), was told if he signed, it would be for $850,000, well above the projected slot figure of $370,800. He did, and he was welcomed to the organization on the jumbotron during the Mariners' game against the San Diego Padres.
He signed June 14.
The draft was on June 5.
Less than two weeks later, Pike is sitting in a Hampton Inn in Peoria, Ariz., thinking about what his first day with the Mariners will be like.
"It's a little overwhelming right now," Pike, who got his room assignment Tuesday, said.
"But I know that it will be worth it in the end. I'm taking it a day at a time."
Pike, the highest pick from Polk County, was one of two high school baseball players from the area to agree to terms with their respective teams.
Rob Whalen, a Haines City graduate, signed with the New York Mets on June 15. He started his rotation in St. Lucie but was quickly shuttled to New York to be on the Brooklyn Cyclones' roster, a Class-A affiliate of the Mets. Whalen, who was picked in the 12th round, started there Tuesday. He said he will likely start playing in a few weeks.
For both players, picking pro ball over college was easy.
"This is always what I wanted to do, play ball professionally" said Whalen, who has roots in New York.
"It was a no-brainer for me."
Whalen, a right handed pitcher who committed to play for Florida Atlantic University, has family from Queens, where the Mets play. As an 8-year-old, he won the Tom Seaver Most Outstanding Pitcher award at a Mets-sponsored camp in Long Neck, N.Y. Seaver, a pitcher, helped the Mets win the World Series in 1969.
"I grew up a Mets fan and this just seemed like an opportunity I couldn't pass up. It wasn't even about the money. I just wanted the chance," said Whalen, who signed for $100,000 according to Perfectgame.org, a baseball prospect website.
Pike, who had an athletic scholarship from Florida State University waiting for him, was on the fence with his decision until Seattle's offer came through.
"When the Mariners called and offered him the money he just couldn't turn it down," Mark Pike, Tyler's father, said.
"You're not guaranteed money like that every day so the offer made it easier on him to follow his dream."
An extra stipend of $80,000 for college money, in case Pike wants to complete it down the line, was even more of an incentive to stick with Seattle.
The call to FSU pitching coach Mike Bell wasn't too hard, he said.
"Coach was really happy for me," Tyler Pike said. "He sounded a little down, but he said to promise him two things: to get an education and to get him some tickets when I make it to the show."
The other area athlete to sign with his team was Polk State College's Alec Asher.
The former Eagles and Lakeland Dreadnaughts pitcher signed on June 7 with the Texas Rangers. Asher has already seen action with the Spokane Indians in the Class-A Short Season Northwest League. In one outing, he pitched one inning, striking out two without giving up any runs or hits.