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Steinbrenner infielder signs with the UF, but other options may await

Gerald Bautista is the son of ex-major leaguer Danny Bautista.

ROD GIPSON | Special to the Times

Gerald Bautista is the son of ex-major leaguer Danny Bautista.

LUTZ

The ultimate decision will come soon enough, but on Wednesday, Gerald Bautista celebrated the present.

The Steinbrenner High School infielder signed his national letter of intent with the University of Florida. The signing came just a month after Bautista made an official visit to Gainesville and was sold on the Gators.

His skills have positioned him as a likely candidate for the Major League Baseball draft come June, but for now the 17-year-old is prepping for his senior season at Steinbrenner and an opportunity to play college baseball.

But will Bautista go pro instead?

"We'll just have to see what happens in the future," he said.

The son of former major leaguer Danny Bautista, Gerald Bautista has been a mainstay with the Warriors' program since his sophomore year.

"This was an easy decision for me," he said of signing with the Gators. "It was everything. The facility, the team, the coaches. It's really just a great program."

A strong presence at third base for Steinbrenner, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Bautista has filled in at pitcher with an upper-80s fastball and played some outfield early in his high school career. He is projected as an infielder in college.

"He has the physical ability and the drive," said Steinbrenner baseball coach John Crumbley, a Tampa high school baseball fixture. "He has a lot of focus and desire to excel on the baseball field."

Bautista hit .382 as a junior with five home runs and 19 RBIs. He also participated in the Perfect Game National Showcase during the summer. His other college suitors included Savannah State and Jacksonville and there was some interest from Louisiana State University.

Armed with great hands, above average running ability and the power to hit to all fields, Bautista is familiar with the recruiting and scouting process.

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Bautista downplayed a recent report that said he had been close to signing with the Cleveland Indians this past summer. He was eligible to sign but said he always intended on returning to Steinbrenner once the summer was over. Bautista said he trained and played with Dominican teens being scouted during the summer.

"That was more of just training and seeing where I measured up with those kids," he said. "The whole time I was always planning on coming back here for my senior season."

Bautista, whose father played 12 MLB seasons and won a World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001, said he is looking forward to college and the possibility of professional baseball. He added that it's also important for him to finish high school first.

"Watching my dad and how he did his job, that was exciting," Bautista said. "That was motivation. Now I'm looking forward to this season and working hard and seeing how things work out."

Rod Gipson can be reached at hillsnews@sptimes.com.

Steinbrenner infielder signs with the UF, but other options may await 11/10/11 [Last modified: Thursday, November 10, 2011 3:30am]
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