RINGGOLD, Ga. — Make no mistake, Matthew Crownover has every intention of giving professional baseball his undivided attention — just not yet.
The former Ringgold High School pitcher is "98 percent certain" he will return for his junior year at Clemson University after being drafted in the 21st round by the San Francisco Giants nearly a month ago. Though he has until July 18 to make an official decision, the left-hander believes his future will be brighter if he waits a year.
"I was real honored to be picked, but I've got to look out for what's best for me," Crownover said. "I'm working on my secondary pitches every day, and if I can improve those and have another solid year at Clemson, I think my draft position will improve. It's never over until the deadline comes, but I've felt all along I would go back for my junior year."
Several teams before the draft had inquired as to what it might take for Crownover to turn pro. After talking with his family, he submitted a dollar figure that would have slotted him into the earlier rounds, knowing that most teams would pass this year. The Giants, however, were not one of the teams the family had talked to, so when the phone rang on day three of the draft, the family was surprised.
"We talked to 18 to 20 teams, but the Giants weren't one," dad David Crownover said with a laugh. "We weren't even monitoring the draft at that point, and Matthew had gone out for a run. When he got on the phone they asked him if we would take a certain number and it was quite a bit lower than what we had talked about before, so he said he couldn't sign for that and we haven't really heard from them since."
The decision is about more than money. In addition to his athletic development, Matthew is on pace to graduate early. He carries a 3.87 grade point average, and if all goes as expected in the fall and spring he'll be just eight hours short of graduation when next year's draft rolls around -- hours he plans to find a way to complete.
"My goal is to play baseball for a long time, and even if I do I will want to do something after my career is over," the sports communication major said. "I want to eventually be a coach or work in a major league front office, and coming from a sports family and having been coached by several great coaches, I have a lot of different perspectives I can take to a career."
He's so serious about his post-playing career that early next month he will accompany one of his professors to Houston to present an independent studies project they worked on. It involves how major league rosters are built.
"We wanted to see if major league baseball teams are more successful if they are built through the draft or by the free agent/international posting route," Crownover said. "We went through all 30 teams and studied how their rosters were built over the last five years, and then, through the players' WAR (wins against replacement) value, we saw some interesting results that we'll present at the conference in Houston."
The pitcher, who underwent Tommy John surgery his senior year at Ringgold, was a solid 8-6 this past season for Clemson, which uncharacteristically was just 15-14 in Atlantic Coast Conference play. Crownover fashioned a 2.90 ERA and in 99 innings pitched allowed only 94 hits as a weekend starter for the Tigers. He ended the year starting the team's Friday games, where he matched up with the opponents' ace, and will likely start next season in the same position.
"Compared to my first year, last year I felt good all season," he said. "My fastball was 88 to 93 mph and I pitched much better after it warmed up. Getting to start on Fridays at the end of the year was a challenge, but I think I held up well. As a team we were disappointed that we could never get anything consistently going, and next year we're determined to take care of business and earn a [NCAA regional] home series."
Hyde batting .275
Former Calhoun High School and Georgia Tech star Mott Hyde is 15 games into his professional career after being drafted in the 16th round by Houston and signing the next week. Playing for Tri-City in the New York-Penn League, he's batting .275 with three doubles and a triple to go with six RBIs and six runs scored.
Hyde started all four years at Georgia Tech, starting each of the 252 games he played in. For his college career he batted .271 with 54 doubles, 21 homers, 147 RBIs and 32 stolen bases. Splitting time between shortstop and second base, he had a .951 career fielding percentage, including a .968 mark this year.
Hyde hit .464 with 16 homers and 57 RBIs in leading Calhoun to the Class AA state championship his senior season after batting .547 with 20 homers and 67 RBIs as a junior.
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or 423-757-6296.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...