SEMINOLE – Brett Phillips’ childhood dream has finally come true – to play baseball in a major league organization.
The former Seminole High School slugger and center fielder made his decision final June 11 when he signed with the Houston Astros, which drafted him in the sixth round.
Phillips received a $300,000 signing bonus along with a clause in his contract stating the Astros would pay his future college tuition.
He decided to turn pro after previously committing to play at North Carolina State.
This past season at Seminole, he hit .354 with a .622 slugging percentage, 27 runs and 18 RBIs. He was selected to play on the first team in the All Pinellas Conference Game and the All Star Classic. He was voted as the Tampa Bay Times 2012 Player of the Year.
But his main focus became the draft. On June 5, Phillips, his family, coaches and members of the baseball team gathered at his house and watched a television screen waiting in anticipation for his name to appear. Phillips and advisor Loren Pincus, son of Seminole baseball coach Jeffery Pincus, negotiated the deal with the Astros.
“I was able to come in looking at the deal that he got and did some more negotiating to get him the deal that he would want, which would be more on the college end of it,” said Pincus. “With the bonuses as tightly calculated as they are, there wasn’t a whole lot of wiggle room. He was able to get over $100,000 from what his original signing bonus was.”
“I was truthful about the whole process,” said Phillips as he handled most of the negotiations and talking. “I told them what my expectations were for this draft. I even said this to all the scouts during the season. There is no reason to play games with my future when the draft comes along.”
After nearly four hours of waiting on draft day, Astros made Phillips their pick.
Phillips said that when his name appeared, the celebrating started.
“When I saw my name come up on the (TV) screen, words couldn’t explain the feelings and hard work that I’ve put myself through over the many years I have played.” Phillips said. “It’s just exciting. I really wasn’t able to take it all in until after I officially signed because there was so much going on negotiation-wise. Seeing your name on the screen though, it’s ecstatic.”
Within days, however, Phillips was approached with a brand new scholarship plan by N.C. State.
Because of his high demand with both organizations, he began to deeply reconsider his chances of possibly missing out on college. Playing college baseball would have a great effect on his draft chances and would have forced him to wait three years to be eligible again.
“I was unsure if what I made was the right decision. I was 50/50,” said Phillips. “N.C. State was playing Florida for the Super Regional Championship and I wanted to see that experience and see what I could be missing. From the people that I know who went to that college, one of their sells to me was the college experience. And when I think of that I think of partying and drinking and that’s not me. I’m going to play baseball full time, no distractions. Plus, I am getting paid, I can’t beat that.”
Phillips’ draft chances and money earnings were compared to another Astros draft hopeful and someone he played competitive baseball with since he was 9 years old. Pitcher Lance McCullers of Jesuit High School was the 41st draft pick in the first round and was set to play at the University of Florida. However, McCullers received $2.5 million from the Astros and will now turn pro as well.
“For me, the opportunity to play is the most important thing,” said Phillips. “I mean I could go to college get hurt and never chase a dream ever again.”
When he attended the Super Regional Championship game in Gainesville, things began to come into a clearer perspective. After gaining different opinions from players that were drafted out of both high school and college, he ultimately decided that the best path for him was go toward the major leagues. At that moment, he was ready to make his decision.
“I’ll say this, when I signed the papers, all I felt was relief,” said Phillips. “I finally knew what I was going to do. I was so ready to go pursue a dream and a career and a now I am going to do that.”
Seminole coach Jeff Pincus stated that although Brett had many options laid out for him to choose from, he ultimately chose the one that suited him the best.
“I think that he made the right move,” said Pincus. ”It’s a very big decision that an 18-year-old has to make. But Brett has had his heart set on playing baseball since he was a young boy. He had many opportunities and everything lined up.”
Although he had until July 13 to make a decision about playing college or pro baseball, he wanted to start early and make a name for himself.
“I’m not nervous, just excited,” said Phillips. “I’m excited to be playing with the best of the best. I am going to miss Seminole because of all my friends, family and most of all the memories. Everyone always starts a new chapter.”
Phillips left to play in the Astros Gulf Coast league on June 12 in Kissimmee.