Patrick Schuster enrolled for summer classes last month at the University of Florida, opting for English and plant science as his first taste of college coursework. Still, the left-handed pitcher from New Port Richey, Fla., doesn't know if the moment will mark the beginning of a college career or if it will be his first and last semester.
Schuster, SI.com's boys athlete of the year, rode his swerving 91-mph fastball to stardom in April when he broke a state record that had stood for 22 years by throwing four consecutive no-hitters for J.W. Mitchell High. Now, Schuster must choose between signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks and playing for the Gators.
Schuster got a call from Diamondbacks officials shortly before they made their third-round selection during the MLB amateur draft June 10. But the club went with another player and Schuster fell to the 13th round, where Arizona finally selected him. Schuster doesn't know if his signing bonus request scared away teams in the early rounds, but he has until 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 18 to decide whether to sign with the Diamondbacks or stay in Gainesville. Schuster said he isn't entirely sure how much Arizona would have to offer to lure him away from college.
"I really haven't sat down and thought about it," said Schuster, who finished his season 8-1 with a 0.93 ERA. "Before, it was quite a lot of money. Thinking about it now, I don't really know. I really can't sit here and tell you what it's going to take. They're just going to have to give me a number, and I'm going to have to sit down and think real long and real hard about it."
Whether he turns pro or plays at Florida, Schuster already has enjoyed a limelight some professionals never experience. After he threw his third consecutive no-hitter, he was interviewed on ESPN by Tom Engle, a producer for the network who happened to co-hold the national record for consecutive no-hitters (six) while pitching for Fairfield Union High in Lancaster, Ohio, in 1989. Reporters from local and national media outlets flocked to watch Schuster throw no-hitter No. 4 against Pasco High on April 20.
After Gaither High junior Drew Doty snapped Schuster's no-hit streak at 28 1/3 innings with a third-inning double April 28, Schuster was invited to throw out the first pitch at a Tampa Bay Rays game the following week. At the game he met his favorite pitcher, Rays ace Scott Kazmir. "He gave me a few tips," Kazmir joked to the St. Petersburg Times. Later, Kazmir and Schuster wound up signing autographs together. Among those who sought Schuster's signature was former All-Star pitcher David Wells, who was broadcasting the game for TBS.
Though Schuster's mom, Sharon, said she might have tried to dial back the hype a bit to relieve pressure on her son during the streak, Schuster himself wouldn't change a thing. "Going into those games, I had no intention of doing that again, and then again and again," Schuster said. And though the streak didn't help his draft stock, Schuster plans to pitch his way to the majors, whether immediately or after he takes a few additional classes. "I'm not disappointed," he said. "I'm ready to play ball wherever it may be."
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