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Hanging Up His Helmet

June 7, 2004
By Phil Rogers

CHICAGO--With the notable exception of Oklahoma State football fans, the White Sox' drafting of Josh Fields was a popular move.

Fields, who has been among the top-ranked quarterbacks in the Big 12 Conference the last two seasons, all but committed himself toward a full-time baseball career after being selected by the Sox with the 18th pick overall in the draft.

"Playing two sports, I probably haven't come close to being what I can be,'' Fields said. "I am excited. I am going to work as hard as I can to get (to the big leagues) as soon as possible.''

A third baseman with plus range and power, Fields was a three-year starter in baseball. He was extremely consistent from year to year, building a .364 career average to go along with 25 homers and 131 RBIs. He hit .362-10-47 this season.

"He's got a chance to be an impact guy,'' scouting director Duane Shaffer said. "I really like the way he plays the game, and he's got leadership abilities.''

Shaffer says that Fields projects as a possible No. 3 or 4 hitter in the big leagues.

"He can drive the ball the other way,'' Shaffer said. "He's got quickness in his hands. He gets loft on certain pitches. He's got a chance to hit for both (average and power) but as he gets older he will develop more power that could take away from his average.''

The recent history of college quarterbacks pursuing baseball careers points out the challenge that Fields will face.

Josh Booty (Marlins), Quincy Carter (Cubs), Drew Henson (Yankees) and Matt Mauck (Cubs) all returned to football after failing to establish themselves as hitters. Joe Borchard, the White Sox's first pick in the 2000 draft, remains stalled at Triple-A Charlotte after walking away from the quarterback's job at Stanford.

If Fields has an advantage over those others, it is that he will be playing the sport that is his first love.

"There's always been something about baseball,'' Fields said. "I love the way it is in the clubhouse, around the dugout and on the field It will be hard to leave all my (football) teammates, my friends. I've had so many experiences, so many good times at Oklahoma State. But they all understand my situation.''

Fields was able to compete at a high level in baseball without spending time on the field in the fall or the summer. He squeezed a little time in a wood bat league into his summer schedule as a freshman but hasn't been able to since.

"In the fall when everybody was working on their (baseball) skills, I was recuperating,'' Fields said. "When you get hit in football, it can take a week to feel OK again. I'm so excited to concentrate on one sport.''

A native of Stillwater, Okla., Fields first paid attention to the White Sox when they selected Oklahoma State's Robin Ventura in the first round of the 1988 draft. He says he adopted the Sox as one of his favorite teams after playing a video game that bore Frank Thomas' name.

"I wanted to have all my favorite teams in one city, so I was a Bulls, White Sox guy,'' Fields said. "There're a lot of Cub fans around here, for some reason, so I caught grief for being a Bulls, White Sox fan.''

CHI-LITES

In the sandwich round, the White Sox selected a pair of lefthanders--Tyler Lumsden of Clemson with the 34th pick overall and Gio Gonzalez of Monsignor Pace High School in Miami with the 38th pick overall. Gonzalez had been projected as a first-rounder before being dismissed from the team this year. "He's got a plus fastball, a plus curveball,'' Shaffer said. "We've seen him many times over the last few years and we really like what we're getting. We think he's beyond what a high school kid is.''

After losing Bartolo Colon and Tom Gordon to free agency, the White Sox had six of the first 69 picks. It took $5.2 million to sign those picks in the 2003 draft but Shaffer indicated the Sox had been given sufficient budget to sign all their picks. "We did our homework (with the picks), talked to agents,'' he said. "Jerry Reinsdorf has been tremendous He said take the best players and that's what we did, and we got 'em.''

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