Jason Groome’s baseball future appears limitless.
But as Thursday’s Major League draft approaches, these are uncertain times for the Barnegat High School senior.
The left-hander changed his college plans this week. He had committed to attend Vanderbilt University, but on Monday night, Groome committed to attend Chipola College, a junior college baseball power in Marianna, Florida.
Chipola coach Jeff Johnson said Tuesday night in a telephone interview that he spoke with Groome and his advisor Jeff Randazzo on Monday night.
If Groome attends Chipola, he’s eligible to be drafted again next year. If he goes to Vanderbilt, he must wait three years to be drafted again.
“We talked for a while,” Johnson said of the conversation he had with Groome on Monday. “I think he’s decided if he doesn’t sign in this year’s draft, he doesn’t want to be in college for three years.”
Where Groome pitches next will be determined Thursday.
“I think they (Groome and Randazzo) have a number in their mind for what it will be worth for them to sign for,” Johnson said. “When everything plays out in the draft, we’ll have an idea on whether he’s going to school or not. I think Jason and his advisor are covering all their bases.”
Groome and Randazzo could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Randazzo did confirm in a text that Groome had changed his plans and would not attend the draft at the MLB Network studios in Secaucus. Instead, he planned to watch the draft with family in Manahawkin.
It is hard to say what Groome’s decisions this week mean for his draft status. Where a player is taken in the MLB draft is based not only on talent but how much money a player is willing to sign for. MLB.com still lists Groome as the most talented prospect in the draft.
Groome was projected to be a Top-5 pick before the season started. There was speculation that the Philadelphia Phillies could even select him with the No. 1 pick in the draft.
The latest mock draft from baseballamerica.com has the Cleveland Indians selecting Groome with the No. 14 pick.
Johnson took over the Chipola program in 1996 and built it into a national power. He has had more than 170 players move on to four-year universities and professional baseball. Major league standouts Jose Bautista and Russell Martin have played at Chipola.
Johnson said Chipola was involved in a similar situation to Groome’s in 2003.
The Baltimore Orioles drafted pitcher Adam Loewen with the fourth pick in the 2002 draft. He couldn’t agree to contract and pitched a season for Chipola before signing with the Orioles in the spring of 2003.
Johnson said he got a call a couple of days ago from people around Groome asking if Chipola would be interested in the pitcher.
“We were happy when we got the call,” Johnson said. “Thank goodness we’re known and somebody thought about calling us.”
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Groome finished his senior season at Barnegat with 90 strikeouts in 39.2 innings. He allowed 15 hits and five earned runs.
Johnson said he has seen Groome pitch at several showcase events.
“He has as easy a delivery as there is,” Johnson said. “He has a great arm and great ability. I’d like to have him as the No. 1 guy on the staff. I know that.”