Angels sign first-rounder Cowart
Switch-hitting third baseman batted .654 for Georgia high school
If Kaleb Cowart could have hit the field in an Angels uniform right after being selected with the club's first pick in June's First-Year Player Draft, he certainly would have.
As it was, though, Cowart, the No. 18 overall selection out of Adel, Ga., officially signed with the Halos on Monday, hours before the 9 p.m. PT deadline to ink drafted prospects.
Financial terms of the deal weren't officially disclosed, but a source told MLB.com that Cowart's signing bonus amounted to $2.3 million.
For Cowart, the 2010 Gatorade National High School Baseball Player of the Year, finally getting back on the field after months of dealing with the game's business is the best part.
"When they drafted me, on Draft day, I wanted to play then," Cowart said during a conference call with reporters on Monday. "If we could have got it done then, I'd have been happy to do it then. It just takes time, this process. There's a lot of steps you have to go through, it just takes a little while."
The Angels are just as excited for the power-hitting third-base prospect to join the organization as he is to hit the field.
"We're pleased to officially welcome Kaleb to our organization," said Eddie Bane, the Angels' director of scouting, in the official announcement. "He will add to the talented pieces already in our farm system and will play a large role in the future success of the Angels."
Cowart, 18, will now report to Tempe, Ariz., where he'll join the Angels' Arizona instructional league team.
"Kaleb wanted to know if he could play in the game tonight in Arizona," Bane joked about Cowart's eagerness. "We had to back him off a little bit, but he'll get in a game pretty soon."
Cowart had originally signed to play baseball at Florida State, one of the country's top collegiate programs, but the chance to play for the Angels was one that he just couldn't turn down.
"I can't tell you how excited I am to be an Angel," Cowart said. "They're a great program and a great organization. I'm completely thrilled to become an Angel. I just want to thank everybody that stood behind me and got this done."
The process of signing Cowart was as long as to be expected for a top first-round pick. The negotiations came down to the morning of the deadline, but the Angels remained confident they'd secure him.
"We've got a lot of time left -- what, 11 hours?" Bane said. "We've just been grinding away trying to come up with a deal. ... It tends to come down to [the] deadline a lot. Give Kaleb and his family some credit -- they understood that."
Cowart, drafted out of Cook County High School, earned numerous accolades for his jaw-dropping senior season at the plate, as he hit .654 (second all time in Georgia history) with 11 homers and 59 RBIs.
The Halos certainly thought highly of Cowart's numbers and accolades, but it was the maturity he showed during the negotiations that really left Bane impressed.
"When Kaleb wanted to say something, he said it," Bane said. "When he made the tough call to Florida State to tell them he wasn't coming, he did it himself. He didn't have anyone do it for him. That's a pretty grownup 18-year-old. ... When he said he wanted to call Florida State and even asked his mother and father to leave the room, I'd never seen that."
Now Cowart will join the two other Georgia high school athletes the Angels grabbed in the first round in Arizona. Pitcher Cam Bedrosian and center fielder Chevy Clarke, both of whom signed earlier this summer, have been able to give Cowart a glimpse into the life he's about to enter.
"I've talked to Cam several times, and I've talked to Chevy a lot, too," Cowart said. "They said they're having a blast. They wouldn't change anything. They wouldn't go to school if they could. They'd still be right there playing in the Arizona League."
And though the Angels didn't officially disclose the size of the signing bonus, Cowart insisted that it wasn't about the money.
"It's a great feeling," he said about being done with the negotiations. "It's truly a blessing. It just so happens that God gave me a gift to play baseball. I'm going to do that. Money's great, but I just love to play the game and have a passion for the game."
But when pressed, he admitted that he might be in the market for a new ride.
"I'll probably end up getting a pretty nice car," he said. "Probably a Yukon Denali."
The Angels are just happy that one day in the future, Cowart will be parking whatever he's driving in Southern California.
Hopefully, that won't be too far in the future.
"As soon as possible," Cowart said of his personal timeline for reaching the Majors. "I want to get up there and play. I'm ready to play."
Bailey Stephens is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.