BURNHAM - Like all members of his graduating class, former Mifflin County High School student Seth Wagner had some important decisions to make about his future during his final year of high school.
Unlike many of his peers, Wagner's choice involved a potential future as a professional athlete.
Back in the spring, the tall southpaw signed to play baseball at Penn State. But when the Major League Baseball draft rolled around and Wagner found himself a 39th round pick by the Minnesota Twins, it was decision time - go to Penn State right away, or delay college for a chance at making it to the big leagues.
Sentinel photo by SARAH WHITESEL
Seth Wagner, left, prepares to sign his minor league contract with the Minnesota Twins as Twins area scout Jay Weitzel, right, watches.
Wagner decided to go with the Twins.
"A lot of people have told me I'm ready and have the projectability to be able to do what I want to do and make it to the pros, so I thought it would be a good idea to take a chance," Wagner said before officially signing with the Twins at his home Friday.
Wagner will be assigned to the Gulf Coast League Twins, a rookie team based in Fort Myers, Fla. Jay Weitzel, the Twins' area scout who played a major role in getting Wagner drafted and who represented the Twins Friday when Wagner officially inked his deal, said the Gulf Coast League is below the Twins' Class A affiliate, the Cedar Rapids Kernels, and contains mostly first-year athletes. Wagner will be playing along with the Twins' top draft pick, Kohl Stewart.
The plan is that Wagner will mostly likely depart for Fort Myers on Sunday, and he said he's excited to get down there and get to work right away.
"I don't get too nervous too often, but I'm really excited to get down there and show them what I have," he said.
As Wagner waited to sign the contract Friday he seemed relaxed and confident - as he often does on the mound or on the basketball court - but his excitement to get in the game was also evident, as his upcoming step into professional baseball is one he has long hoped to make.
"As a kid it was always a dream for me to make it this far, but I never really realized it until maybe a couple years ago that I could actually have a chance to do it," Wagner said, explaining even after he realized he had a shot at professional baseball, he didn't really change his game but continued to play as he always had.
It was a smart move - the way Wagner plays ball impressed Weitzel.
Weitzel explained that the Twins usually try to have multiple scouts watch a player before deciding whether or not to draft him, but various circumstances made it so that he was the only one who got to see Wagner play. However, the Twins invited Wagner to a workout in Rochester, N.Y., where another area scout and Weitzel's boss got to see Wagner at work, which was instrumental in the organization's decision to sign the lefty.
"When we got the chance to draft him, they took my word on the draft, but to actually sign him their word was very important," Weitzel said.
Weitzel also explained that what most drew the Twins to Wagner was his projectability, or in other words, his potential for improvement.
"He's a young, left-handed high school kid, great body, from Pennsylvania. He's got a lot of projection, what we think he could reach. He's going to change from what he is now, and we think he's going to go the right way instead of the wrong way," Weitzel said.
Regardless of where Wagner ends up, this step with the Twins provides both a look to the future and gratitude for things of the past.
In terms of his future, Wagner explained that one of his incentives for signing with the Twins, rather than going straight to Penn State, is the fact that the organization has agreed to pay for his college education whenever he is done with professional baseball. But despite the excitement of things to come, Wagner was also sure to mention his pitching coaches Rick Roberts and Mike Connolly, with whom Wagner worked the past few years in both pitching clinics and in his summer travel team, the Flood City Elite.
"I'd really like to thank my pitching coaches from up in Altoona and Johnstown," Wagner said. "They really helped me along the way through this whole process, and if it wasn't for them I probably never would have got this opportunity."