From Premed to Predraft Phenom Princeton's Hot Prospect

June 06, 2004

Some 100 radar-gun-toting scouts descended on Old Dominion
University in March to watch Monarchs righthander Justin
Verlander face off against touted Princeton righty Ross
Ohlendorf. By day's end, however, the buzz had turned to the
Tigers' outfielder B.J. Szymanski, who launched a 96-mph
Verlander fastball 450 feet over the centerfield fence. Before
that day Szymanski had been virtually unknown to major league
scouts. "Since then, the interest toward B.J. has been nonstop,"
says Tigers coach Scott Bradley. "We've had scouts watching B.J.
hitting at all our batting practices."

Szymanski, who went on to hit .378 with a .646 slugging
percentage for the Ivy League champs, is projected as a
first-round pick in next week's draft. Nowhere to be found among
Baseball America's Top 100 college prospects in February, the
junior centerfielder is now ranked by the publication as the
sixth-best position player in the draft. It's a stunning rise for
a premed student who didn't play baseball during his freshman
year so that he could focus on football.

Szymanski still thinks he might have a future in pro football; he
caught 44 passes for 823 yards last fall. Baseball, however, is
his focus now. "I love both sports," says Szymanski, who plans to
get his bachelor's degree within two years even if he signs a pro
contract this summer. "But I'm committed to baseball. Everything
has fallen into place, kind of unexpectedly, for me to pursue
that."

COLOR PHOTO: XOCHIQUETZAL MARTINEZ/THE DAILY PRINCETONIAN Football standout Szymanski hit .378.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)