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Horton plans to continue recruiting MLB talent.

Byline: Bob Clark The Register-Guard

George Horton would do it again.

In fact, the Oregon baseball coach wouldn't rule out going through the "tease" again next year of nearly having a top recruit turn down a significant monetary offer from a professional baseball team to play for the Ducks.

"You can't make your living" on the recruits who are likely to sign professional contracts, Horton acknowledged, "but if you don't recruit 'em and don't sign 'em to letters of intent, you're never going to get" that kind of elite player.

"You're kind of walking the tightrope," the coach added of recruiting the type of talent that professional teams want, too, "but we'll be there every single year.

"We've already got commitments from a couple of kids we'll have to sweat out next year."

It came down to the final day for a couple of Oregon recruits this year, with outfielder Jake Marisnick and pitcher Tyler Matzek beating by hours and minutes, respectively, the deadline to sign professional contracts on Monday. Horton and the Ducks were hopeful, but reality arrived with financial offers that lured away Oregon's top two recruits, based on where they were selected in the June draft of Major League Baseball teams.

"I wasn't shocked we ended up losing those guys," Horton said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters. "The closer it got to the deadline, there was more of a tease that it actually might happen but ultimately, we kind of expected it."

Matzek, the first-round selection of the Colorado Rockies and the 11th pick overall, agreed to a deal only eight minutes before the deadline that will pay him $3.9 million. Marisnick earlier in the day signed for $1 million as a third-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Even with those players deciding not to attend college, Horton termed it "a very exciting" recruiting class for the Ducks, a group that includes five other players who were drafted but didn't sign contracts.

"What's left is pretty spectacular," Horton said. "We have some very, very good recruits up here. I don't want to minimize that" because of the losses to professional teams.

Of Oregon's recruiting class announced in June, the Ducks kept two players drafted out of high school, infielders Jack Marder (30th round, Diamondbacks) and J.J. Altobelli (49th round, Brewers) along with a junior college catcher, Brett Hambright (38th round Rockies).

When the Ducks lost Matzek, Marisnick and three other recruits who signed with professional teams earlier this summer, it also opened up scholarship money and roster positions for two additional recruits, Horton said. Those newest members of the Oregon team are junior college first baseman Stephen Kaupang, taken in the 50th round by the Yankees, and high school outfielder Nick Wagner, selected in the 44th round by the Blue Jays.

There are also UO recruits who weren't drafted, and among them Horton was touting left-handed pitcher Christian Jones. The coach said Jones "took himself out of the draft" by telling teams in advance that if he wasn't selected in the first round, he would definitely go to college.

"He doesn't have some of the accolades (of Matzek), but in his own right, he's just as special," Horton said.

The UO coaches also found some solace Monday night when Drew Gagnier, who posted a save in half of Oregon's 14 wins last season, turned down a final offer from the Oakland Athletics. Drafted in the 14th round, Gagnier said he received a telephone call about an hour before Monday's deadline after the A's reached agreements with their selections in the first and fourth rounds, and went over the recommended amount from the commissioner's office to sign both of them.

"They told me they didn't have any money left," Gagnier said. "They didn't make an offer even close to what I wanted, but I wasn't too disappointed. That's what next year is for."

After redshirting one season, Gagnier will only be a junior in eligibility in 2010, with hopes that a more successful Oregon team will offer him more opportunities to close out games.

"I'm definitely excited," Gagnier said. "I still think I have a lot more to learn, and playing in the new stadium will be sweet."

Horton welcomed back Gagnier with the suggestion that the relief pitcher "is potentially what I think could be a first-round selection (in 2010) ... we're tickled to have Drew back."

Horton said the Ducks have also recently learned that the NCAA has granted another year of eligibility to Andrew Schmidt, who hit .212 while playing first base and designated hitter for the Ducks last season.

Horton said Schmidt was a "bubble guy" who barely survived the final cutdown to a 35-player roster last year. When practice begins Sept. 14, Schmidt will be challenged to make the roster again, Horton said, because "we've got better players this year than last year."
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Title Annotation:Baseball College
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 19, 2009
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