At a crossroads, Scott is looking for direction

Delmarva outfielder might head to NFL if he's drafted

April 23, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

As the NFL draft begins to unfold tomorrow, with teams making their selections in the first three rounds, Lorenzo Scott will be on the clock.

An outfielder at Single-A Delmarva, Scott doubled as a linebacker at Ball State. Rather than choose a sport that defines him, Scott said he's "an athlete" - one who has an important decision to make.

Approached last week after batting practice at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium in Salisbury, Scott indicated he might stick with football if he's selected this weekend. He cites a desire to ease the financial burden on his family, but baseball continues to tug at him.

Which direction will he go?

"That I don't know," he said. "I could do this every day, but at the same time, if the right situation comes up, I have to weigh my options."

A four-year starter at linebacker, the first three in the middle, Scott only dabbled in baseball at Ball State after walking onto the team. He started five of 32 games in 2003, batting .231 with two homers and 10 RBIs, but the Orioles chose him in the 17th round of the amateur draft because of his athleticism and potential.

They still see those qualities. Though Scott was batting .231 (6-for-26) heading into last night's game in Columbus, Ga., he hit .319 with 24 RBIs with Rookie-league Bluefield last summer before leaving the team to rejoin Ball State's football team and complete his senior season.

"We knew he was going to keep his options open," said Doc Rodgers, Orioles director of minor league operations. "I know he hasn't closed that door. I spoke with him upon his arrival at spring training, and he said he was going to play it by ear."

Listed at 6 feet 3, 210 pounds, Scott doesn't have the body of an NFL linebacker and probably would move to safety. He led the Cardinals in tackles his first three seasons, and scouts are intrigued by his 4.6 speed in the 40-yard dash.

"I've talked to my agent, and he said I could go in the late rounds," said Scott, who's 18 hours shy of his degree in exercise science. "I'm not a top-round guy."

The Sporting News lists Scott as the 43rd-rated prospect at outside linebacker, the position he played after Ball State switched to a 4-3 defense last fall. But Gil Brandt, the former head of the Dallas Cowboys' personnel department, who covers the league for NFL.com, said there are "enough teams" that regard Scott as a prospect.

"He's a pretty good linebacker," Brandt said. "I don't know if he'll be drafted, though. He's a fairly good player. I'm just not sure that they know how fast he is."

That speed enabled Scott to go 11-for-12 in stolen base attempts at Bluefield and to leg out a triple during Friday's win against Lexington. It also allows him to cover lots of ground in right field.

"He's a little rough, because he hasn't played that much baseball," said Delmarva manager Bien Figueroa. "He has all the tools to play in the major leagues. He just needs to play the game."

"He's got major league ability," said Don Buford, who is serving as a roving outfield instructor until he begins managing short-season Single-A Aberdeen in June. "He's probably going to end up hitting with some power. He's just inexperienced. You don't know how good he's going to be until he plays."

Scott started 53 of 118 baseball games at Ball State, batting .256 (61-for-238) with seven homers, 43 RBIs and 40 runs scored. The Cardinals were the only Division I football team to offer him a scholarship. No baseball coaches contacted him.

"I've always been told I have the tools. I was just never given the opportunity to play," he said. "I understood in college. It's hard to put a kid out there who's trying to work on things. That's what the minor league system is built for."

Nobody with the Orioles is questioning his work ethic. Scott takes fly balls until told to leave the field, and he's quick to grab a bat and head for the cage. If talent were measured in sweat, he'd be a lock for the Hall of Fame.

"He's a no-nonsense type of guy. He's the kind of kid you like to have," Buford said. "If he totally commits, he could be in the big leagues in two or three years. He should go to winter ball and get as many at-bats as he can."

He can't do it wearing shoulder pads.

"If I don't get drafted in football, I'm still a professional baseball player," he said. "A lot of guys entering the NFL draft, that's their only hope. If they don't get drafted, they have to go out and try to get a 9-to-5 [job] or scramble to make a team. I can do this for the rest of my life if that's the way everything goes for me."

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