Less than a year after turning his back on $750,000 and stacking boxes in a liquor store for pocket change, Jeff Weaver is vindicated.
The Fresno State right-hander from Simi Valley High was chosen by the Detroit Tigers in the first round of the amateur baseball draft with the 14th overall pick Tuesday. Weaver returned for his junior year at Fresno State after being chosen 62nd by the Chicago White Sox last year, turning down a signing bonus many believed he should have taken.
Now he should get at least $1 million. And he feels like a million bucks, to boot.
"I'm really happy and excited at the way it turned out," he said. "The Tigers are an up-and-coming program and I'm excited to be involved with that. Everything worked out."
Tigers General Manager Randy Smith watched Weaver's last college game, in which he struck out 19 Grand Canyon batters.
"That definitely helped out," Weaver said. "I think it solidified his decision."
Weaver's mind is set too--the long, excruciating negotiations he endured last summer won't be repeated.
"I want to go out and play," he said. "[The Tigers] will contact me in a couple of days and I hope to quickly get out and start playing."
It might take longer for Barry Zito, the Pierce College left-hander who transferred from UC Santa Barbara before the season, to be eligible for the draft. Zito was taken by the Texas Rangers in the third round with the 83rd pick, lower than expected.
Zito, a sophomore, has leverage because he could transfer to a Division I college and be re-drafted next season.
"At this point, it will have to be the right deal with the Rangers," said Paul Cohen, an Encino attorney who is representing Zito. "Will he be treated like a normal third-rounder? The answer is no. It's not like he is heading into his senior year. He has more leverage than that."
High school players from the region were virtually ignored. The top pick was outfielder Barry Tolli of Newbury Park, an eighth-round choice of the Tigers.
Tolli moved to the Conejo Valley last summer from St. George, Utah, to gain greater exposure. He will decide between a scholarship to Loyola Marymount and the Tigers.
"I always wanted to play pro baseball and now I have the opportunity to go out and play," he said. "We have a [dollar] figure in mind. We want college paid for, then the money after that would be negotiable."
Dennis Lieberthal, the Tigers' scout who recommended Tolli, has had great success in recent years, drafting unsung players such as Gabe Kapler of Moorpark College and Bryan Corey of Pierce College who have blossomed into top prospects.
Tolli is the third Newbury Park product drafted by the Tigers in five years. Outfielder Keith Smith was drafted in 1993 but after one season decided to play football at Arizona, and 1990 Panther graduate Robert Fick was taken out of Cal State Northridge in '96.
Oxnard College shortstop Jack Wilson was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the ninth round. Wilson, from Thousand Oaks High, is a good hitter with a strong arm who has a scholarship to Texas Tech.
Arizona's Darrel Hussman, a right-handed pitcher from Quartz Hill High, was the fourth-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds despite his 1-2 record this season.
Pepperdine had four players drafted: shortstop David Matranga was a sixth-round pick of the Houston Astros, left-handed pitcher Will Ohman was an eighth-round choice of the Chicago Cubs, left-handed pitcher Paul Avery was the 15th-round pick of the Dodgers and right-handed pitcher Andy Shibilo was taken by the Cardinals in the 23rd round.
Two players from Monroe High were drafted: Victor Hall, an outfielder with sprinter's speed, was taken in the 12th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks, and right-handed pitcher John Ennis, who has a scholarship to UCLA, was the 14th-round pick of the Atlanta Braves.
Left-handed pitchers Ryan Earl of Thousand Oaks High and Carey Novits of Northridge were drafted in the 22nd round by the Tigers and Cleveland Indians, respectively.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Players from the region selected in the amateur baseball draft that began Tuesday (listed by name, school, position, round selected, and drafting organization.
Player School Pos. Rd. Team Paul Avery Pepperdine LHP 15th Dodgers Ryan Earl Thousand Oaks High LHP 22nd Tigers John Ennis Monroe High RHP 14th Braves Victor Hall Monroe High OF 12th Diamondbacks David Hawk ex-Chatsworth High LHP 25th Pirates Darrell Hussman Arizona RHP 4th Reds David Matranga Pepperdine SS 6th Astros Carey Novits CS Northridge LHP 22nd Indians Will Ohman Pepperdine LHP 8th Cubs Andy Shibilo Pepperdine RHP 23rd Cardinals Barry Tolli Newbury Park High OF 8th Tigers Jeff Weaver Fresno State RHP 1st Tigers Jack Wilson Oxnard College IF 9th Cardinals Barry Zito Pierce College LHP 3rd Rangers