May 18, 2012

Decision looming large for two-sport star Porter

Aaron Porter thought he was done. He already made one life-changing decision in the past few months, so surely there wasn't going to be another one coming anytime soon.

Right?

That was correct, up until the point when Porter turned into Roy Hobbs and started smacking baseballs around to the tune of a .494 batting average, eight home runs and 34 RBI in just 85 at bats this season for La Habra High.

That's when Porter, who had picked UCLA's football scholarship over a dozen other schools in February, started garnering interest from Major League Baseball. And suddenly, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound kid who had his whole future planned out as an inside linebacker for the Bruins now has another life-twisting day ahead of him next month.

Porter is expected to be selected by an MLB squad early in June's First-Year Player Draft. According to some close to the situation, Porter could go as high as the third round. That means he might be faced with a monumental choice: Play professional baseball, or take that scholarship and play on the gridiron for the Bruins.

Right now, he has no idea what he's going to do. But the plan, at least on paper, seems simple.

"It all depends on how much money I get in the draft," Porter said on Thursday after going 2-for-4 with two RBI in a playoff victory over Northview.

It doesn't matter the round, the team, the program, the city. It all depends on the cash. And right now, "the money is not there" for Porter to walk away from his UCLA scholarship, Porter's father, Tony, said.

A source close to the situation told BruinSportsReport.com Porter would need a deal worth $2 million in order to drop UCLA and head down the path to MLB. Which is good news for UCLA fans, considering that would be a coup for even a third-rounder to make.

So Porter's options look like this: Forget the MLB and be a dual-sport athlete at UCLA, playing both football and baseball on the linebacker scholarship. Or Porter could take the MLB money and run and give up his UCLA career entirely. Or, lastly, Porter can go a route taken by several famous athletes recently, including former UCLA great Matt Ware: Sign a deal with an MLB team that allows him to play football for the Bruins during the school year and baseball in the organizaton of his MLB squad in the summers.

The latter appears to be the plan at this moment. In all actuality, it would be the best route for the Bruins, as Porter would have to forfeit his UCLA scholarship if he signed an MLB deal (don't worry, the deal would cover Porter's Westwood education). Plus, he would be available for spring practices, something he wouldn't be able to do if he were a dual-sport Bruin athlete.

The problem there, however, is some MLB teams frown upon that whole arrangement. And if they spend a high pick on Porter, they might not let him work that deal.

"The Marlins want me to play baseball only and go in the fifth to ninth round - somewhere around there," Porter said.

Then again, some teams are all about it.

"But the Phillies," Porter said, "they want me to play during the summer and play football during the season."

So everything is going to hinge on draft day in early June. He'll find out what team selects him and then subsequently understand what their plan for him will be.

If it's a team like the Phillies, he'll be playing baseball in the summer and then be on the gridiron with his Bruin teammates in the fall.

If it's a team like the Marlins, and they bring a stack of cash with them, well, then he has a serious decision to make.

"It's tough," Porter said. "I have to talk to my parents about it and everything. But I don't know. I don't know yet. I'm not sure. It is really tough."

So tough, in fact, that it's one more life-changing decision Porter is a little bit surprised he has to make.

"It's crazy," Porter said. "It's almost as hard as what school to choose."

When Porter does get drafted, the deadline to sign will be in mid-July. That's when UCLA will know if it has its stud linebacker ready to go.

And that's when Porter's life could change once again.



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