Baseball bites Huskers again as top recruit picks Brewers

Baseball bites Huskers again as top recruit picks Brewers
June 8, 2014, 2:00 pm
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Vinnie Duber

Monte Harrison was one of Nebraska’s top recruits this year, a four-star wideout in the Class of 2014.

But now, he’s a Milwaukee Brewer.

That’s no typo, Harrison — the state of Missouri’s fifth-best football recruit, per Rivals — was drafted by the Brewers in the second round with the 50th-overall pick on Thursday night. That set him up with quite the decision: start a professional baseball career or play Big Ten football for Bo Pelini?

Well, Harrison went with the Brew Crew and the $1.8 million signing bonus they gave him.

It’s an unfortunate turn of events for the Huskers, who counted Harrison — who was also set to play baseball at Nebraska — as one of four four-star recruits coming to Lincoln this fall, but it’s nothing new for Pelini & Co. In fact, they knew this might happen.

“Well I know Monte, number one, is a phenomenal athlete. We’re so excited about him, and I think he has every intention of coming here to play football and also play baseball. If that changes, who knows?” Pelini said during his National Signing Day press conference in February. “I know one thing, it would have to be something pretty significant to keep him from doing it because I know in his mind he sees himself as football player. He likes to play the game and is excited about coming here. If something out of the ordinary gets thrown his way where he has to make a decision, at that point we’ll sit down and talk about it.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Huskers' Bo Pelini wants National Signing Day eliminated]

Harrison ended up picking baseball, which likely hasn’t been the warmest-received news at Nebraska. But this isn’t the first time this has happened to the Huskers during the Pelini regime.

Nebraska had one of the country’s top quarterback recruits in Bubba Starling, a Kansas native, signed back in 2011. Starling actually reported to Lincoln before being picked fifth-overall in the MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals, who gave him a $7.5 million signing bonus, making the decision to start playing baseball a little easier.

Pelini was asked back in February if Harrison’s situation would be similar to Starling’s.

"I don’t know enough about it, to be honest with you. I’d be talking out of line,” Pelini said. “I don’t know how the baseball people are going to see him, what kind of money he’s going to be looking at and all that type of thing. Obviously, Bubba was here, came here. Reported here. I don’t know what the money was, but I know it was pretty significant. It was life-changing money. Is that going to be the situation Monte is in? I don’t know.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Want a Northwestern jersey? You better like Fitz's No. 51]

The Brewers have high hopes for Harrison, illustrating how gifted an athlete he is. This from the team’s official website:

"The expectations on him are really good," Brewers amateur scouting director Bruce Seid told MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. "I don't ever want to put names to a player, but All-Star comparisons have come up on him. He has a chance to play center field. He has good instincts out there, his strides are outstanding. He has a plus arm, plus raw power and his speed is above average. It's just like anything, it's about playing the game, getting enough at-bats and being patient in watching him develop."

Milwaukee’s hoping Harrison fares better than Starling has for Kansas City so far. In his third minor league season, Starling is a career .235 hitter, including a .187 average in 58 games for Advanced Class A Wilmington this season. He was ranked as one of baseball’s 25 top prospects before the 2012 season. He’s nowhere to be found on those lists today.