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One More Time

By Sammy Batten

Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.–Tyrell Godwin is ready to collect after missing out on millions of dollars in two previous drafts.

The question is: Are any major league teams still interested in making a hefty investment in the 21-year-old outfielder? Ask the bright, confident Godwin and the answer should be yes.

"If I’m chosen based on my talent and based on me as a baseball player, I don’t see why I wouldn’t go in the first round again," Godwin said. "If I was good enough to go two times before, then I should go again. Trust me, I’m definitely a lot better now than I was at 17."

Godwin, from Council, N.C., went 24th overall to the Yankees in 1997 after high school and 35th last June to the Rangers following his junior season at North Carolina.

He turned down a $1.9 million offer from the Yankees and accepted a prestigious academic scholarship from UNC, where he also played football for two seasons before quitting to concentrate on baseball.

The move paid off, as the lefthanded-hitting outfielder emerged as one of college baseball’s best prospects in 1999 and 2000. Godwin’s speed was especially attractive to pro scouts and one of the reasons Texas made him a supplemental first-rounder last June.

But a post-draft physical revealed damage to the anterior cruciate ligament in Godwin’s right knee. The injury was just one of the reasons Texas cited to back off from their initial $1.2 million bonus offer to Godwin.

"How can I put it?" Godwin said. "I think a big game of poker was being played, and I had to call their bluff."

Godwin decided to return to school and earned a degree in history last December. Instead of playing for the Tar Heels this spring, he had his damaged ligament repaired by arthroscopic surgery.

He has spent the months since the October 2000 surgery working to get back in shape. The knee is close to 100 percent, and he sought to prove it in a private workout in Arizona a couple of weeks before the draft. Some 19 scouts from 15 organizations attended the workout.

"Would I rather have gone on and played last year?" Godwin said. "Yes. But I’m content right now in how things went.

"I’ve graduated now, and that’s a big piece to my puzzle. Now I feel I can go in and focus on baseball and I have no distractions. It’s the first time in my life I can focus on one thing, and it honestly feels good."

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