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Pomeranz glad he chose college route

Pomeranz glad he chose college route

CLEVELAND -- There was money on the table for Drew Pomeranz three years ago, as well as the chance to live out his dream of becoming a professional ballplayer.

The money in question was slightly less than Pomeranz was looking for in his negotiations with the Rangers, who had taken him out of Collierville (Tenn.) High School in the 12th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

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"They came up a little short of what I was asking," said Pomeranz, the 6-foot-5, 231-pound lefty the Indians took with the fifth overall pick in this year's Draft. "It was a small amount, too."

A small amount, and a big life decision. It was time for the prep standout to choose between the pull of the pros and the cultivation of college, and he didn't have to look far and wide for opinions on the matter.

Back in 2003, it was another Pomeranz, Drew's older brother Stuart, taken by the Cardinals out of high school with the 65th overall pick in the Draft. What followed for the right-handed Stuart was a professional career that has not and will likely never reach the game's ultimate level. Stuart is currently in Double-A in the Rockies' system after pitching independent ball last year. He was dropped by the Cardinals in '07.

Though the money and opportunity were there for Stuart when he was drafted out of high school, he eventually found himself longing for the college career he never had.

"He was going to visit all his friends in college and stuff and thinking, 'Man, I wish I had gone,'" Drew said. "He was telling me the whole time that he wished he had gone to college."

Ultimately, Drew decided he didn't want to live with the same regrets. And the Rangers' inability to meet his financial demands obviously made the decision to go to Ole Miss all the easier.

Fast forward three years, and Pomeranz, 21, is one of five finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, which goes to the nation's premier college baseball player, the reigning Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year and a top five Draft pick set for the biggest payday of his life.

Yeah, he made the right call.

"I think it's important for kids, especially in my situation, to go to college, spend three years in college, grow as a person, mature and learn how to live on your own before you go to pro ball," he said Tuesday. "When you're an 18-year-old kid with all that money, obviously you think you're ready to go. But especially in a conference like [the SEC], you realize quickly, 'Maybe I wasn't as ready as I thought I was.'"

Pomeranz feels ready now, and how could he not? He had a dominant junior season at Ole Miss, going 9-2 with a 2.24 ERA, 139 strikeouts and 49 walks in 100 2/3 innings over 16 starts for the Rebels.

"At times, my first two years, the scouting report on me was that if I had my secondary stuff in the strike zone, it was game over," he said. "That's what some people had to say about it. Mostly this year, I spent most of the time working on the location of my three pitches and pumping the ball in the strike zone."

That was the work on the field, where Pomeranz said he has always felt composed and poised.

Off the field, there was work to be done as well.

In August 2008, Pomeranz was arrested and charged with refusal to take a breathalyzer test, possessing a fake ID and giving false information to a police officer.

"[Oxford, Miss.,] is not the place to be doing that," Pomeranz said. "Anywhere isn't, but especially not here. It was a dumb kid thing. It kind of makes you grow up a little bit. It makes you realize you can't be making stupid decisions. It's no fun to deal with or put yourself in that situation. It helped me dedicate myself more to baseball and growth in that area. Life experiences, in general, in college help you grow and mature as a person."

Pomeranz grew up with baseball in his blood. His father, Mike, lettered four years at Ole Miss, as did his uncle, Pat.

"When you have parents, of course they push you to be an athlete," Drew said. "My dad was always more into the baseball side of it, because that was his sport, too. It was good to have that, because he raised me and my brother to play the right way. Just from the beginning, from the first time we picked up the ball, he taught us the right thing. He knows how to play the game and passed it along to us."

Drew's size allowed him to start on the varsity basketball squad his freshman and sophomore year of high school. But he knew that wasn't his future.

"Being a 6-foot-5 center guarding 7-foot guys isn't the most fun thing in the world," he said with a laugh. "So I went with the sport I was better at."

That was a good choice, and so was the one Pomeranz made when he chose to go to Ole Miss. The Rangers came up just short of the dollar figure he was looking for. Suffice to say he'll blow that figure away if the Indians sign him before the Aug. 16 deadline.

"I made the right choice," Pomeranz said. "I think that number grew in the three years of college."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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