Pitcher Has A Price

07/22/2009 – Daily News Record

Sorce Calculates His Worth To Pros Written By Mike Barber Daily News Record HARRISONBURG – As a finance major, Chris Sorce knows the value of a professional baseball contract. As a college baseball player, Sorce knows how much it’s worth to him to play another year at Troy University.

So when the Seattle Mariners drafted Sorce (pronounced sor-see) – the closer for Troy and, this summer, the Harrisonburg Turks – in the 26th round, he knew exactly how much he wanted to be paid to leave college for the pros.

“I’ve got a price on my last year of school, my last year of college baseball, the time it’s going to take for me to get my degree afterward, the loss of job experience I could have earned,” Sorce said this week, leaning against a pool table in the basement of Turks owner/manager Bob Wease’s Harrisonburg home. “There are a bunch of things that go into it that a lot of people don’t understand.”

In fact, most prospects Sorce’s age don’t have the grasp on the situation Sorce does, said Troy coach Bobby Pierce, who has had about 100 players sign professional contracts in his career.

“He’s such an intelligent kid when it comes to life and baseball and how the system works,” Pierce said by phone Tuesday. “I’ve coached very few with his insight. We don’t try to sway them one way or another. He’s the one guy that’s said, ‘You can’t put a price on a college education. You can’t put a price on competing for a trip to Omaha. For me to go into pro ball, they’re really going to have to do something special.’ Most kids, of course, turn all that down for a few thousand dollars. Chris is just a different guy. He’s his own guy.”

Don’t misunderstand. Sorce is very serious about playing professionally, and he dreams of making the big leagues. He’s also committed to getting his college degree – sooner rather than later – so that whenever his days as a pitcher end, he can move right into the business world.

“As much as I want to sign a professional contract, school is very important,” Sorce said. “If we can’t come to a settlement, I’ll go to Troy, pitch another year and maybe sign as a senior. My ultimate goal is to make it to the big leagues, put on a major league uniform, play in front of all the fans. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I was younger.”

After starring at Pace High School in Pace, Fla., Sorce was a touted recruit. He went 13-1 as a senior, leading Pace to the 5A state title. Pierce wanted him at Troy. Bill Hamilton longed for him at Pensacola Junior College. But when the Southeastern Conference came calling, Sorce signed with vaunted Louisiana State.

However, the coaching staff that signed him – Smoke Laval and assistant Turtle Thomas – was gone. Laval resigned, Notre Dame coach Paul Mainieri left the Irish to take over and, Sorce said, he never quite meshed with the new staff.

“Some new coaches came in and it wasn’t a fit for me,” said Sorce, who burned a year of eligibility throwing just six innings as a true freshman at LSU in 2007. “I figured it would be better for my career if I went back home and tried to start over again.”

That worked out well for Pensacola and Hamilton, whom Sorce had originally committed to early before the bigger offers started rolling in.

“We always leave that door open when guys turn us down,” Hamilton said this week. “Kind of like Motel 6, we’ll leave the light on for you.”

At Pensacola – five miles from Pace – Sorce was lights out for the Pirates, going 9-2 and helping them to a conference title and the final national No. 1 junior college ranking in the regular season.

Knowing Sorce had left LSU for a junior college, Pierce and assistant Mark Smartt re-recruited him. This time, Sorce joined the Trojans, who quickly moved him to the bullpen.

At Pensacola, he had regained the confidence he lost at LSU. At Troy, he took it a step further, taking over for the school’s single-season saves record holder and becoming a shut-down closer.

“If your first couple of days don’t go quite right, and someone starts changing what you do, and that whole thing starts snowballing on you, the next thing you know, you bottom out,” Pierce said. “I think some of that was the case at LSU.”

The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Sorce went 2-1 with five saves and a 3.26 ERA in 24 appearances, striking out 53 and walking 16 in 38 2/3rd innings of work.

Sorce has continued that success coming out of the Turks’ bullpen. In 11 appearances, he’s allowed two runs in 16 1/3 innings of work. He’s struck out 21 hitters while walking just six, and he sports a 1.10 ERA with a 3-0 record and three saves.

The Mariners and Sorce still have until Aug. 17 under Major League Baseball rules to reach a contract. If they fail to do so, Sorce will go back to Troy, pitch another college season and see who drafts him in 2010.

Going into this year’s draft, Sorce said he knew how much a team would have to offer to get him to leave school. He wouldn’t say what that amount was, but did say the Mariners haven’t hit it. He’s hoping after finishing their deals with other prospects, Seattle will have some extra money left over to send his way.

“I had an exact number set for me to tell them, ‘I’ll sign right now for this amount,'” Sorce said. “They were unable to give it to me at that time. I’m ready to play professional baseball for my price.” Mike Barber Assistant Sports Editor Sports Department mbarber@dnronline.com 540-574-6296