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Borchard takes lead in bonus race

By John Manuel

Joe Borchard
Joe Borchard
Photo: Bill Nichols

Joe Borchard's last night as a quarterback was his toughest.

Borchard, an outfielder for Stanford's College World Series baseball team, entered practice last week as the Cardinal's No. 1 quarterback as well. He was also in the process of negotiations with the Chicago White Sox, who drafted him with the 12th overall pick in June.

Thursday night, Borchard was getting ready to go out with friends to celebrate the birthday of another Stanford two-sport athlete, outfielder/tight end Darin Naatjes. He received a call from his agent, Jim McDowell, informing him the White Sox had met his bonus requests. One catch, though, which he had known ever since the White Sox drafted him: no more football.

"It was a very difficult decision," Borchard said. "(That) night was probably the toughest decision I've ever had to make. Jim called me and I got the news, and I just dropped it on my buddies.

"Their reaction made it easier for me. They told me I'd be crazy to give that up."

Borchard agreed to sign—for the largest bonus in draft history for any player signing with the team that drafted him. McDowell said Saturday Borchard received $5.3 million to be paid out over the next 2 1/2 years, with the final payment scheduled for January 2003. Borchard will receive the first $1.25 million payment seven days after the contract is approved by the commissioner's office. Every Jan. 15 for the next three years he'll receive another payment: $1.25 million in 2001, $1.3 million in 2002 and $1.5 million in 2003. The cash payment surpasses the $3.96 million the Devil Rays gave the 1999 No. 1 overall pick, outfielder Josh Hamilton.

In a year of draft bonus deflation, Borchard's pact sticks out even more. The previous high for 2000 picks was the $3 million bonus the Marlins gave the draft's No. 1 pick, San Diego prep first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Borchard's old Stanford teammate, righthander Justin Wayne, got $2.95 million from the Expos as the No. 5 overall pick.

Borchard's football ability made him an intriguing pick, as did his baseball potential, where running speed is his only tool that does not rank above-average. While he played in January's Rose Bowl game against Wisconsin, he also had played in two College World Series with the Cardinal. He hit .333-19-76 and was a second-team All-American this spring for Stanford, which lost in the national championship game to Louisiana State.

"My years at Stanford were tremendous, and I truly appreciate the opportunity to play college baseball and football at such a competitive level while attending a first-class institution," said Borchard, who was expected to report to the White Sox' Rookie-level Arizona League team in Tucson by Monday. "I can’t wait to get to Tucson and get my baseball career started. There is a lot of enthusiasm and excitement surrounding the White Sox this season, and I am looking forward to becoming part of the organization and sharing in the excitement."

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound switch-hitting outfielder hit .346-40-187 for his career at Stanford despite his two-sport status. In each of the last two years, Borchard played a baseball game immediately following Stanford's spring football game.

The White Sox made it clear to him early in the negotiating process that he would have to give up football if he signed with them. "I didn't want big guys chasing him around the field," general manager Ron Schueler joked. "Really, what we wanted to see was the commitment to baseball. I'm sure he can't wait to get a bat in his hands. I know he wants to make the commitment."

Schueler said as soon as Borchard gets acclimated, he will be promoted to Class A Burlington in the Midwest League. Further promotions this season will depend on his play and postseason play for the White Sox' other farm clubs. He also said Borchard, who played right field for Stanford, will start his pro career in center field, an organizational weak spot.

"Our scouts think he can handle center field very well," Schueler said. "He's not a super runner, but he gets outstanding jumps and reads the ball well off the bat. His instincts are tremendous. We'll put him in center field and let him keep going there."

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