D.J. King knows he will be playing baseball this fall. He’s just not sure where he’ll be taking the field.
The recent graduate of Fort Meade Middle Senior High School has two good choices. He already has a scholarship to continue his academic and athletic career in a area that has been fertile ground for many major league baseball stars: Hillsborough Community College, a school that has turned out such baseball players as major league pitcher Brett Tomko.
But the Miami Marlins are also interested in having King in their organization as well.
The South Florida major league baseball team selected King in the 21st round of last week’s player draft.
Now the two sides will spend the summer deciding if it’s a “relationship” they both want to pursue.
King said he will play in the coming months with the Tampa Bay Warriors, a tournament travel league baseball team, and the Marlins will continue to monitor his progress.
At the end of the summer, King could decide to begin his pro career and sign with Miami, or enroll at HCC. Should he take the two-year college route, he could play while in school, and then be eligible to be picked in next year’s MLB draft.
“The’re doing a summer evaluation and going to watch me the whole summer,” King said. “Once they get done with that, they’ll offer me how much they think I should be offered, and if it’s enough for me, I’ll sign, and if not, I’ll go to college.”
He said so far, the Marlins have only see him play a handful of times.
“But they really liked me every time they talked to me,” he added.
King has been the Miner’s starting shortstop, and hit a healthy .456 in his senior season, with two homers and 18 runs batted in, earning Class 3A District Player of the Year honors.
He said the most important thing he can work on in the coming months is improving his speed. Before the draft, he had work outs with teams like the Rangers, Rays and Padres, including getting the chance to swat a few out of Tropicana Field when he worked out for Tampa Bay.
Fort Meade Coach Jon Spradlin said if hard work is part of the equation in getting to the major leagues, King has a good head start.
“D.J. is one of the hardest working players to ever come through Fort Meade. He would often go down to the field at 5 a.m. to hit with his truck lights shining on the batting cage. He was always the first one at practice and the last to leave,” Spradlin recalled.
He said character is another asset that King has going for him.
“He is a great young man, “ Spradlin added. “He graduated with a 3.7 or 3.8 GPA. As a father, I hope I never have to see my daughter start dating, but if I do, I would hope it is a young man like D.J.”
The way the baseball draft is now set up, players essentially are “slotted” regarding their contract terms based on where they were picked.
King was hoping to go higher, but Spradlin said the team and player weren’t a good match.
“He was contacted several times in the earlier rounds, but they could not agree on the dollar amount,” Spradlin added. “I think the Marlins will be a great fit. They train in Jupiter which is very close by and seem to think they can work out a deal to sign him later this summer.”