06/07/2004 1:52 PM ET
White Sox select OSU's Josh Fields
Two-sport star just starting to show high potential
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
|The White Sox decided to go the college route, picking Oklahoma State's Josh Fields. (Jeffrey Haderthauer/AP)
CHICAGO -- Oklahoma St. football's loss appears to be the Chicago White Sox's gain.
With the 18th pick Monday of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, the White Sox selected Josh Fields from Oklahoma St. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound right-hander earned three letters as the Cowboys quarterback, passed for 2,494 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2003 and led the school to a 9-4 mark. Fields set a school record for career touchdown passes with 55 and a Cotton Bowl mark for passing yards with 307 vs. the University of Mississippi on Jan. 2, 2004.
But the White Sox are interested in his prowess as a third baseman.
Fields hit .362 with 10 home runs during 62 games in his junior year, which looks to be his last at the collegiate level. Fields was rated by Baseball America as the draft's second-best collegiate athlete and its third-best power hitter in the university ranks.
The 21-year-old is excited by the opportunity to join the White Sox organization and close to 100 percent certain that his signal-calling days are behind him.
"I'd say it's pretty much official, but I can't totally answer that question at this point," said Fields of his stellar football career coming to an end. "The White Sox have shown a lot of confidence in taking me where they did, but you never know how things turn out."
"Baseball is where my heart is at, and my true sports love. When our football team has some of the success it had, things get twisted around. People think I'll be favoring football over baseball. But being in the clubhouse or on the field all the time is where I've always loved being."
The White Sox told Fields, whom Jeff Berry represents, that he would begin at Single-A Winston-Salem if he were brought into the fold quickly, with a solid chance to ascend to Double-A Birmingham before the 2004 season was complete. There's even the possibility that Fields could begin with the Barons.
But the 21-year-old from Stillwater realizes third base might not be his position for the long term. With 25-year-old Joe Crede already established for the White Sox at the Major League level, Fields seems willing to move pretty much anywhere to reach the highest level.
"I'm not set at all at third base," said Fields with a laugh. "I've had friends that have played pro baseball, and they started out in different places and ended up in a position they never thought they would be playing.
"I understand positions can change. The ultimate thing is to have a career and play in the Major Leagues. I want to play the position that will get me there and that's good for the team."
Although he has never been to Chicago, Fields' father, Wendall, works for Follett Books, which is based in the Windy City. Fields will be making his first trip to the South Side during this current homestand, but he already has great familiarity with the White Sox.
Oklahoma St. third baseman Robin Ventura was selected 10th overall in the first round of the 1988 draft and became a White Sox fixture at the hot corner. Fields also came to know Frank Thomas through video games as a youngster.
"I've always been a big Frank Thomas fan," said Fields, who was informed through a phone call from his teammate and close friend, Travis Ingle, of his selection Monday. "In the prime of my video games days, 'Big Hurt Baseball' came out and 'Big Hurt' shoes were popular.
"I stayed in the same city in picking my favorite teams when I was a little kid. So, I was all about the Bulls and the White Sox."
As for football, Fields supposedly was removed from the Oklahoma St. depth charts as of Monday morning, with the knowledge of his first-round selection. It's tough for Fields to give up the sport, although his future is definitely in baseball, with a back up role probably ahead of him in the NFL.
He could play collegiately on the gridiron, while still maintaining a professional baseball career. But Fields knows the challenges of doing both at the collegiate level, and realizes that pressure will increase once he starts getting paid to do the job.
Besides, All-American wide receiver Rashaun Woods has moved on to the San Francisco 49ers, taking away his top option from the past season.
"It's tough losing an All-American receiver like Woods, especially when he makes you look as good as he does," Fields said. "Some of the balls he caught weren't the best of thrown balls.
"But it was pretty much decided that if I was picked in the first round, I was going to play baseball. It's pretty tough playing both. It's one of those things where I'm going to concentrate on one and maximize my ability in one sport."
Fields always will have the memories of beating Oklahoma twice while quarterbacking Oklahoma St., the equivalent of winning the lottery in Stillwater. But his first-round selection Monday surpasses those great moments.
"It's awesome," Fields said. "It's a dream come true to be taken where I was and to have the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream. I'm looking forward to getting to such a great city and joining such a great organization."
"We believe he wanted to be baseball and only baseball and devote all the time to this game," added White Sox senior director of player personnel Duane Shaffer, who mentioned Fields has the chance to be a middle-of-the-order power hitter. "Obviously, we are ecstatic. I think we have one of the better athletes in the draft. He's an impact guy, and that's why we took him."
Oklahoma St U
Position: 3B B/T: R/R
H: 6-2 W: 210
Born: 1982-12-14 Class: SR
LARGE FRAME. MATURE BODY, HEAVY REAR & LEGS. BODY TYPE SIMILAR TO LANCE BERKMAN. WIDE, SEMI-SQUAT STANCE. BAT PINCHED INTO CHEST. STRENGTH IN SLIGHT UPPERCUT SWING W/ PWR POTENTIAL. ARM PLAYABLE, ACCURATE THROWS. HANDS & DEFENSIVE ACTIONS SHOW PROPER TECHNIC. ALERT BASE RUNNER. PHYSICALLY MATURE. STRENGTH IN SWING, BAT & PWR POTENTIAL.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.