Jared Sandberg began the summer thinking about pro baseball. He will finish the summer playing it.
Nearly two months after being drafted in the 16th round, Sandberg decided to skip a scholarship offer from the University of Hawaii to sign with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Sandberg said he made his decision after playing for a month in the Pacific International League, a summer program for college players. "I went up there without knowing what I wanted to do. But playing every day and being able to concentrate on baseball without school made me realize that's what I wanted."
Sandberg, nephew of Cubs star Ryne Sandberg, made his professional debut with the Gulf Coast League Rays on Monday, flying to leftfield in a pinch-hit appearance.
The infielder from Olympia, Wash., said his parents had been in contact with the Devil Rays throughout the summer. He said he decided to leave the summer league last week when Tampa Bay made another offer.
"It's not like I was waiting for another offer or anything," Sandberg said. "I was thinking about it all summer."
Having missed the first month of the Gulf Coast League season, Sandberg is a likely candidate to play in the Instructional League this fall.
The Devil Rays have signed 23 of their top 25 draft picks, an extremely high percentage considering most of the players still had college eligibility.
Still unsigned among the top 25 pickslayers are 19th-rounder Ryan Ledden, a right-handed pitcher from Parkview High in Lilburn, Ga., and catcher Russell Jacobson, a 23rd-round selection from Horizon High in Scottsdale, Ariz.