TORONTO - Forgive Max Pentecost if his attention's divided this weekend. The Blue Jays' second pick in the first round (11th overall) is competing in this weekend's NCAA super regional for his school, Kennesaw State, against the Louisville Cardinals. All the while, he could be days or weeks away from signing a multi-million dollar contract to turn professional and enter Toronto's organization.
Pentecost's Owls were down a game in a best-of-three heading into action on Saturday night. He's got business to take care of first but with a draft slot value at just under $2.9-million, the potential is there to strike it rich.
Still, when you hear him speak in his southern drawl, it's a reminder that the 21-year-old, like everyone his age, is in many ways still a kid.
"I can't wait to get out there and go play," said Pentecost. "There's going to be one day where I'm going to have to clean out my locker and putter around home just because my parents had to move me out of my apartment while we were coming to the super regionals."
Selected in the seventh round of the 2011 draft by the Texas Rangers, Pentecost chose not to sign when the Rangers included a 90-day clause in the contract offer, a shield against a recurring injury he suffered in high school.
In Pentecost's sophomore year at Winder-Barrow High School near Atlanta, he suffered a stress fracture of his olecranon, which is the bony point of the elbow. He was prescribed rest and rehabilitation. It didn't work and the injury recurred during his junior year. Another season of rest and rehab didn't work and Pentecost suffered the injury a third time in his senior year. He had surgery, two screws were implanted, and there hasn't been an issue since.
"I looked at it as I can go to college, work on a degree and if anything I can show them I can play three or four years without the injury recurring," said Pentecost. "I can play healthy and thankfully I was blessed enough to have a good career and improve my stock."
His faith in himself has been rewarded. Pentecost has improved as a hitter in each of his three years at Kennesaw State, working a slash line of .423/.483/.631 this season.
"I feel that I'm more of a hit for average, I'm more of a gap to gap, line drive kind of guy," said Pentecost. "I have power but I'm not known as a power hitter. You know, it just kind of happens. I feel like I have pretty decent speed for baserunning, for stealing bags. I usually have a pretty good approach, hit offspeed well."
Growing up in Georgia, Pentecost admitted he doesn't know much about the city of Toronto. He joked about his time in the Cape Cod League, the collegiate summer circuit in Massachusetts, where he picked up French-language radio stations beaming out of Quebec.
It was his time in "The Cape," as it's known, when he hit .346/.424/.538 with seven home runs for the Bourne Braves, that Pentecost feels he made his name.
"I think that's the only reason I am where I am today," said Pentecost. "Going up there, nobody really knew who I was or had never even heard of Kennesaw State. So going up there I felt like I was really going to have to prove myself and prove my game just to prove who I am. I made a lot of changes to my game, really played hard, enjoyed it. The overall experience was, I mean, it was just a blast."
Pentecost cites Jason Kendall and, more recently, Buster Posey as players he's looked up to. He considers himself a versatile athlete; if the catching thing doesn't work out, he could play a corner infield position or in the outfield.
First things first, Pentecost's got a game to win on Saturday night. He'll worry about becoming a millionaire later, although getting the draft out of the way will help him relax.
"It's a huge weight off my shoulders," he said.
Sergio Santos will throw a bullpen session in Toronto on Sunday. If all goes well, he'll report to Single-A Dunedin on Monday.
The plan, Santos says, is to throw an inning each on Tuesday and Thursday.
He's hopeful of being activated off the disabled list late next week and of meeting the team in Baltimore.